On Your Feet

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2

Music legend Gloria Estefan’s rise to fame certainly didn’t come without its challenges. Her childhood was spent caring for her bed-ridden father and younger sister while her demanding mother laid down strict rules and strong academic expectations. Add to this a natural shyness, a music industry rife with prejudice and a life-changing tour bus crash and you can see why success may have at times felt an impossible dream for the Queen of Latin Pop.

On Your Feet tells the real-life love story of both Gloria and Emilio Estefan, their rise from humble Cuban beginnings to Gloria, with the support of husband Emilio becoming one of the most successful female recording artists of the 20th Century selling over 100 million records globally.

Taking on the role of Gloria, Phillipa Stefani demonstrates the talent and fighting spirit of Miss Estefan with style and class. Her voice is perfection as she delivers each number with warmth and passion. George Ioannides makes for an excellent Emilio, capturing both his drive for success and his devotion to his wife with a believable sincerity, while the two together have a beautiful chemistry. Madalena Alberto convinces as Gloria’s stubborn mother while Karen Mann brings the laughs as witty Grandmother Consuelo.

Effectively a jukebox musical On Your Feet is a fun and feel-good reminder of Estefan’s incredible back-catalogue. Writer Alexander Dinelaris and director Jerry Mitchell largely succeed in delivering an entertaining piece of theatre however the decision to gloss over key events such as the marriage of Gloria and Emilio, the birth of their son and the death of her beloved father and grandmother do feel noticeably absent and would have added the emotional depth that’s missing at times. While the story doesn’t shy away from the challenges the couple faced during their rise to the top the dramatic tension you’d hope for is never quite reached.

David Rockwell’s set design feels a little repetitive and at time it feels like the sliding panels never stop but luckily the talented cast manage to draw you in, you may even get invited to conga around the stalls if you’re lucky!

Despite these quibbles the sensational ensemble pieces really do turn up the heat with the talented cast delivering every inch of Sergio Trujillo’s sizzling choreography with perfect precision while Emilio Sosa’s glittering costumes really do add to the spectacle of the piece. The on-stage ten-strong band brilliantly recreate the Miami Sound Machine’s vibrant sound ensuring that flaws aside the rhythm will without doubt get you.

Featuring songs such as Dr Beat, 1-2-3, Rhythm Is Gonna Get You and of course, Conga: On Your Feet is a celebratory evening with enough charm and musical treats to ensure you conga your way out of the theatre and feel a little warmer for all that Latino spice.

On Your Feet is on at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until Saturday 2nd November tickets available here.

Evita

Evita 3

Opening Night rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reviewed by Matthew Forrest

It’s hard to believe that next year will see Evita celebrate it’s 40-year anniversary. The Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice collaboration became the first British musical to win the Tony award for best musical then in 1996 Evita received the Hollywood treatment when it was turned into a major motion picture starring Madonna, Antonio Banderas and Jimmy Nail. Even after all this time, the love and affection for this musical monster shows no sign of waning.

The musical charts the rise and fall of Eva Perón. From her humble rural upbringing, to her move to Buenos Aires in an attempt to become a star of stage and screen. She would meet and marry Colonel Juan Perón who would be elected president of Argentina. This is a classic tale of an ambitious young woman who desires fame, power and wealth, but at what cost to her physical health and to Argentina financially?

Evita 2 Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright’s Evita is full of life and energy: the story is so exhilarating, told at such a breakneck speed that you hardly have time to breath. Madalena Alberto plays Evita with a great deal of sass and attitude juxtaposed with beautiful elegance and grace. It’s little wonder the people of Argentina fell for her charms on the basis of this exceptional performance. Alberto’s rendition of Don’t Cry for me Argentina is simply spine-tingling. Alberto is supported by a great cast; Gian Marco Schiaretti is on fine form as Che, acting as our guide and the shows conscience his presence looms over the production providing humour and a certain degree of menace. In addition Jeremy Secomb is equally as good as Juan Perón; a stern imposing figure whom like the rest of us falls under Evita’s spell.

Evita 1 A special mention to for Cristina Hoey, whose rendition of Another Suitcase in Another Hall, very nearly steals the show. However what stood out most for me, was Bill Deamer’s fantastic and intricate choreography on the big ensemble numbers such as And the Money Keeps Rolling In (and out ) and A New Argentina: add into the mix the bright, colourful costumes and extravagant set design and you cannot help but be impressed by the energy and vibrancy of it all.

The action is pacey with much more humour than I anticipated. Overall this is a seriously quality production that has lost nothing from its transfer from the West End to a tour production. With stunning performances and incredible score Evita is a thrilling night out that will stave off the cold winter blues and certainly provide a hefty dose of Latino-heat!

Evita Evita is on at the Palace Theatre Manchester till the 9th December tickets available here