On Your Feet – The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan @ HMT Aberdeen Reviewed by Duncan Harley

Sharp rhythms aside, and despite the expansive title strapline, this is really a fairly bland biopic of Gloria Fajardo AKA Gloria Estefan. Thinly woven character development leaves husband/manager Emilio, played here by George Ioannides, lagging. Portrayed as caring and charming and occasionally absurdly comedic, that’s about all you get of the essence of the man who made the star.

Gloria, a splendid Philippa Stefani, and her mum and her gran hold the plot strings and the show is really about the Estefan brand.

Plot-wise, an attempt is made to set the bands rise against a mid-20th century geo-socio-political scene in the aftermath of the Cuban Revolution. Havana born Gloria’s family flee to Miami following Castro’s takeover.
Dad Jose – Elia Lo Tauro, participates in the disastrous Bay of Pigs CIA inspired invasion of Cuba and is later exposed to a toxic chemical defoliant whilst serving in Vietnam. He gets ill and dies. A later traffic accident leaves Gloria wheel-chair bound. She miraculously recovers. The band face determined music industry hostility. They overcome this.

In short, the link-story is all about triumph in the face of adversity. But it’s still paper-thin in places and perhaps over-reliant on tear-jerkers.

There are better musicals in the biopic juke-box pack - think Jersey Boys and Beautiful for starters.
But of course, none have a back catalogue which crosses over so many musical genres. Ballad, disco, pop, samba all feature and in both Spanish and English.

Combined with the shows drop dead gorgeous dance numbers and, as a piece of uplifting entertainment, it works. Staging, and lighting and sound – superb.

Ensemble/swing/band all good. In all there are some twenty-one stunningly performed musical numbers. But despite the Twists & turns, please can I have some more plot sir?

Entertainment: 3/5
Stars: 3/5

On Your Feet is @ HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 14 March

Words © Duncan Harley

Images © Aberdeen Performing Arts


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