Whenever I see a show at the Oriental Theater I always try to go a little early because I always need extra time to look at the incredible history and architecture of this building. Then it comes back to me that when I was growing up South Chicago it would be the ultimate treat to take the I.C. (Illinois Central) downtown and watch a movie…yep…big silver screen movie at the Oriental Theater. I sure like the way the theater is used now, you can go to watch Die Hard movies at any theater in your local mall.
Sunday afternoon my wife, sister, brother in law and I had the opportunity to watch, or I should say experience the pre Broadway musical “On your feet”. This was the last night of the performance and couldn’t have ended on a better note. As I search for really cool, big, artsy words to write the only one that constantly comes back it WOW. I found myself trying to dance in my seat early and often. I also say try because when you see what real dancers look like you know I can only mean “try”. As an old school bass player myself I have been blessed to have a decent feel to play the Cuban/salsa rhythms we heard during the show. The dancing was something I could only wish/think I look like when I dance……wish is more like it. Eduardo Hernandez plays Gloria and Emilo’s young son. As I watched this little kid dance I was reminded again….I can’t dance a lick. We will sure be seeing a lot of this kid in the future.
Josh Segarra also does a great job playing Emilo Estefan. He is another gifted dancer without a doubt. His singing wasn’t at Gloria’s level but there is a reason she has top billing. I can appreciate what Emilio had to offer to the business/marketing and promotion of the Miami Sound Machine. This kind of success just doesn’t fall from a tree. During the show we were reminded of the “American-ness” of Gloria and Emilio. After leaving Cuba her dad joined the US Army and served in Viet Nam. The other cast members who portrayed Gloria’s parents and grandmother all gave an outstanding, believable performance. It is very obvious to me that when the casting call went out for this show went out if must have stressed: Wanted actors for the story of Gloria and Emilio Estefan’s life: MUST sing and dance like you ain’t getting paid and you don’t care….but do and every minute showed I am sure they were all paid well and loved every minute of it. It showed ALL night.
Although much of the music was on track as the actors sang along there was also a live band. Another top rate bunch of musicians having fun. Interesting stuff about salsa music; no traditional drummer is needed. You have timbales, congas, claves, cowbells, maracas and other shaker stuff going on that you say what’s a drummer? It brought a powerful sound that a cd just couldn’t have pulled off. I have read some other reviews of the show that get so deep into the technical production, the story lines, and even stage lighting. Heck I go to shows like this to be entertained not to figure out if pressure treated lumber was used to build the set. A very unanswered question was how did young Eduardo come out of nowhere to become Gloria’s son? He was dancing before Emilio came into the picture. We missed the wedding. This part was a little confusing for me. This is the story of Emilo and Gloria’s life.
With an intermission, the show went about three hours. I am sure the whole story of their lives could have been weeks and not hours long. So just entertain me I can fill in some blanks. Alexandria Suarez played a very young Gloria and sweetly sang and fit the role. If anyone in the cast looked like a child of Gloria Estefan it would be the young lady that played Gloria, Ana Villafane. Even from my balcony seat I could tell she looked like Gloria. When Ana spoke she really sounded like Gloria. When Ana sang she really, really sounded like Gloria. Ana’s dance moves had me asking “is this fair for one person to have so much talent?” Then I am reminded yes it is, Ana did a phenomenal job portraying a woman who has that much talent. Oh yeah, then there is Gloria’s song writing ability. I had only one negative thought about the show and it is a big problem with the show. July 5th was the last night on the show.
So if you want to see it New York is not that far away and you have till October to save for the trip. As for me New York is not in my near plans but the story of Carole King’s music will be starting at the Oriental Theater in Dec. It’s called “It’s Some Kind of Wonderful”. December ain’t that far away and neither is downtown Chicago.
Reviewed by Paul “Mr U” Uhrina
July 6, 2015