Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay


On Your Feet!
National Tour
Review by Patrick Thomas | Season Schedule

Also see Jeanie's reviews of The Naked Truth, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and A Chorus Line and Patrick's reviews of The Phantom of the Opera and Detroit '67


The Cast of On Your Feet!
Photo by Matthew Murphy
The origin stories and adventures of bands/musicians can make for some decent to terrific musicals. Which makes sense; there's already an organic reason for the cast to break into song, and since being a star of the stage is a dream for many, audiences enjoy watching the process of music being made and performed. Jersey Boys, Bandstand, The Music Man, The Band's Visit, Beautiful, The Phantom of the Opera, Bye Bye Birdie, Pal Joey, Dreamgirls, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Jelly's Last Jam, Million Dollar Quartet, Passing Strange, Rock of Ages, The Sound of Music—all are more or less wonderful in their own way. Just as Escape to Margaritaville, Lennon, School of Rock, and We Will Rock You are all awful in their own way.

On Your Feet!, the musical story of the rise to stardom of Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine, enjoyed a moderate success on Broadway and is currently on tour and on the boards at the newly renovated SHN Golden Gate Theatre. Sadly, it falls closer to the bottom of that spectrum than the top. Despite a tight, top-notch band, a troupe of talented dancers with explosive moves, and the infectious Latin rhythms they perform, the tired story and paper-thin characters are the wallflowers of this dance party.

On Your Feet! begins in 1990 (just prior to the tragic accident that will occupy much of act two), then quickly flashes back to Gloria's childhood in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood, where her mother (once a promising young singer in Cuba) pushes young Gloria toward a career in psychology, while Abuela Consuelo encourages her granddaughter to follow her dreams. Gloria Fajardo soon meets Emilio Estefan, leader of the band Miami Latin Boys, taking the first step to stardom—and name changes for both Gloria and the band.

The band runs into the usual tropes of a musical rise to stardom: the family reluctant to have a child competing in the cutthroat world of music, the record label that just can't catch the vision of the bandleader, the travails of life on the road, and the breakthrough hit that proves everybody else wrong. We know where it's all going, but we have to slog through a couple of hours of meager narrative before our heroine ends up back on top.

Even though those two hours are filled with a handful of recognizable hits and energetic dance numbers (choreographed by Sergio Trujillo), I noticed very few toes tapping along, and when the finale brings the cast out into the aisles, only a handful of audience members felt inspired to get on their feet.

The cast is likable enough, especially Alma Cuervo as Abuela Consuelo, but the vocals from the two leads—Mauricio Martinez as Emilio and Christie Prades as Gloria—lack the soulfulness and passion the roles require. Prades' tone lacks a certain distinctiveness, and she occasionally flatted some of the notes at the performance I saw.


SHN Golden Gate Theatre, from the stage
Photo by ©Kyle Jeffers
Though the lighting truss that mirrors the stage's proscenium is packed with moving lights that make for some colorful, energetic concert effects, the staging overall is bland and unimaginative, consisting mainly of a series of tall vertical flats that roll in and out of place, with light and projections helping to establish different scenes.

However, the theatre itself is looking great. After more than a year of remodeling, there is a whole new color palette, upgraded HVAC systems, plush new carpet and—perhaps most important for audiences—upgraded and expanded rest rooms, including a doubling of the facilities for women, and the addition of gender-neutral facilities.

Let's hope the next show at the SHN Golden Gate, Waitress, does a better job of engaging its audience on an emotional level.

On Your Feet!, through October 7, 2018, at SHN's Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market Street, San Francisco CA. Tickets range from $55 -$246, and are available by calling the box office at 888-746-1799 or by visiting SHNSF.com. For more information on the tour, visit onyourfeetmusical.com/tour/.


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