On Monday 24th February, I was offered the chance to attend the opening night of the Broadway musical “On Your Feet” at the New Wimbledon Theatre. The audience was packed full of people, all raring to see the story illustrating the lives of renowned Cuban musicians Gloria and Emilio Estefan, featuring all of their best hits such as “Conga” and “Dr Beat”. With her voice and his vision, their incredible story is definitely deserving of the performance and energy the cast gives it.  Having first opened in the West End last summer, director Jerry Mitchell’s musical is a must-see as it shows no sign of running out of steam any time soon. 

Right from the very beginning, the cast brought an energy to the stage unlike any other. The entire show was a flurry of awe-inspiring Latin singing and dancing, all of which were accompanied by a fantastic live band onstage for the entire night. By the end, quite literally, the entire audience was on their feet dancing along with the cast. At one point there was even a Conga line featuring many members of the ensemble and audience members they picked up along the way as it was winding its way through the stalls. 

Philippa Stefani gave a fantastic performance as Gloria Estefan, as the audience watched her journey from being invited to be the lead singer of the Cuban band, Miami Latin Boys, as a teenager to eventually crossing over into the Western music industry to become a global superstar with the Miami Sound Machine. George Ionnides plays Emilio Estefan, who delivers a convincing and heart-warming performance as Gloria’s producer and husband as their love story unfolds onstage. 

But the journey was not plain-sailing for these two, as they are shown to have to overcome a great number of obstacles in order to achieve their shared dream. There were undertones of the hardships the couple faced as Cuban immigrants in the United States, as they had to deal with prejudice within the music industry itself. However, they were shown to face these obstacles with an admirable determination and strength, with Emilio at one point delivering the powerful line “Take a good look at my face, because this is what an American looks like”. There were also heart-wrenching scenes depicting Gloria wrestling with the struggles her personal life threw her way, such as her disapproving mother, her father’s illness and the infamous 1990 tour bus crash which saw her faced with the possibility of paralysis and the end of her life as she knew it.

But, despite the ups and downs of the couple’s life, the closing medley does well in summing up the optimistic and inspiring determination of their story, as this feel-good musical leaves every single member of the audience tapping their toes and filled with a warm joy even long after the curtains close. 

By Emily Parsons