'On Your Feet!': A sizzling celebration of Latin-American music and dance

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Mauricio Martinez and Christie Prades in the touring production of "On Your Feet," through April 15 at the Academy of Music.

On Your Feet! The Emilio & Gloria Estefan Broadway Musical is heating up the Academy of Music stage through April 15. High-tempo, foot-tapping tunes and a cadre of chiseled dancers transform the theater into a Cuban nightclub that makes sitting still nearly impossible.

On Your Feet! unfolds the life of singer Gloria Estefan, from her humble beginnings in Cuba to her courtship with and marriage to Emilio Estefan, to her chart-topping, worldwide success. With a live onstage band that fades in and out of view, vibrant musicality drives the show, which sets the tone for the masterful choreography of Sergio Trujillo.

Christie Prades, whose striking resemblance to Gloria Estefan makes her ideal for the role, thrills with exceptional dancing and command of the stage. And Mauricio Martínez, who plays the role of Emilio Estefan, is also stunning, with complex footwork and a powerful voice that filled the room.

In a Cuban neighborhood setting, a young Gloria (Carmen Sanchez) is lured away from her chores by the sounds of salsa on a nearby street. Through elaborate formations, the actors make the most of the stage — which featured movable walls and projected images of Cuban and Miami settings.

An initial color palette of pastel hues of pink, lilac, and mint established a childlike spirit. After some expository work, an older — and more womanly — Gloria emerges, and the pastel colors give way to a more sensual palette of royal purple, magenta, and metallics to suggest maturity.

The story line was familiar: A child with an artistic gift comes of age in a modest family. The child is encouraged to pursue their talents by an elder but anchored to family and responsibility by a parent. The child grows up, falls in love, and faces a series of setbacks until a big break and all is well.

Although On Your Feet! isn’t particularly profound, there are efforts to show the struggle of the Latin artist attempting to break into the American market. In a scene led by Prades and Martínez, Gloria and Emilio hustle to get radio play and are told Gloria’s sound is either “too Latin” or “not Latin enough.”

Whenever the cast wasn’t dancing, I wished they were. Ballads and a few audio issues dampened the momentum – but that didn’t stop Gloria’s mother (Nancy Ticotin), whose name is also Gloria, from stealing the show. The scene, the high point, begins with Gloria’s grandmother (Debra Cardona) revealing that in her younger years in Cuba, Gloria’s mother was a singing sensation. Within a blink, the set becomes a Cuban nightclub with Ticotin’s rendition of “Mi Tierra” in a chocolate, gold-sequined ensemble as luxurious as her voice. There’s a clear Celia Cruz influence in this number’s rhythms and boldness.

On Your Feet! may not be deep, but it’s possibly the most fun you’ll have in a theater, and the cast is more than willing to ensure that you do.

Theater

On Your Feet!

    • Through April 15 at the Academy of Music, 240 S. Broad St. Tickets: $69-$110. Information: 215-790-5800, kimmelcenter.org.