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On Your Feet!, Theatre Royal review: The Estefans' story told with infectious Latin flare

PUBLISHED: 10:49 20 November 2019 | UPDATED: 17:39 21 November 2019

On Your Feet. Philippa Stefani (as Gloria Estefan) and company. Picture: Johan Persson.

On Your Feet. Philippa Stefani (as Gloria Estefan) and company. Picture: Johan Persson.

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The Gloria Estefan musical On Your Feet! brought some much needed Latin heat to Norwich Theatre Royal on a cold November night, with a show full of heart, humour and hardcore numbers.

On Your Feet, Philippa Stefani as Gloria Estefan and company Credit: Johan PerssonOn Your Feet, Philippa Stefani as Gloria Estefan and company Credit: Johan Persson

The infectious first bars of Rhythm Is Gonna Get You blares out from a live band and within seconds the audience had a blueprint of what to expect from a juke box musical of Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine hits - energy, fire and Cuban beats.

At its core On Your Feet! follows the story of Gloria (Philippa Stefani) and her husband Emilio (George Ioannides) and their struggle to break out of the Latin music market with their group the Miami Sound Machine and cross-over to the English language one.

The first act is predominantly a feel good, and in parts cliché, look at the beginning of the Estefans' love and musical journey and uses some of her most famous hits, including 1-2-3 and Dr Beat, as the Cuban immigrants chase the American dream.

The talented cast erupts during the powerful and energetic routines, choreographed by Sergio Trujillo to include difficult Latin moves - including an impressive use of the 'pot stirrer' - mixed with simpler disco style moves, giving the audience the illusion they could be at the party with the Miami Sound Machine.

On Your Feet. Philippa Stefani (as Gloria Estefan) and company. Picture: Johan PerssonOn Your Feet. Philippa Stefani (as Gloria Estefan) and company. Picture: Johan Persson

This comes to fruition at the end of the first act, with the dancers moving into the aisles and grabbing members of the audience to dance to the break-out hit Conga.

The show does not shy away from the more gritty parts of the Estefans' story, especially in the second act, and explores Gloria's father's multiple sclerosis diagnosis, racism from music executives and the tour bus crash which left Gloria facing the prospect of paralysis.

Stefani and Ioannides played the leading pair with just the right dose of cheeky and romantic chemistry and portrayed a deeper emotional connection during the dramatic second half. But it was the older cast members who really stole the admiration of the theatre.

Karen Mann had perfect comic timing as Gloria's grandmother and Madalena Alberto perfectly portrayed the struggle of a estranged mother watching their child live out their own dream.

On Your Feet, Philippa Stefani as Gloria Estefan and company Credit: Johan PerssonOn Your Feet, Philippa Stefani as Gloria Estefan and company Credit: Johan Persson

The show ends with a what felt like a mini concert as the cast literally got the theatre on their feet with a medley of Estefan's biggest hits. A perfect end to a show which at its heart is about the power of the Latin beat.

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