In the past 20 years, there has been a massive rise in the popularity of jukebox musicals, which are shows where the score is made of hit songs from popular artists, as opposed to original writings. On Your Feet!, based on the life and music of 26-time Grammy award-winning duo Gloria and Emilio Estefan, was one of the most exciting and authentic jukebox musicals of this decade. On Your Feet! began performances on Broadway on Oct. 5, 2015, with an official opening a month later. The production celebrated 500 performances on Jan. 19, 2017 and bid farewell to Broadway on Aug. 20 after 34 previews and 746 regular performances. The Estefans’ music could not be more perfect for a Broadway show. It is contagiously energetic and fun, while carrying a certain cultural eminence that popularized Cuban traditions in the United States.
The husband-and-wife team is one of the best-selling musical acts in history and a representation of an entire era of music in the United States. For many people, watching On Your Feet! felt less like seeing a theatrical performance and more like coming home and rediscovering an old friend. Everything about the show is done with laudable love for music and dance. The score, which is full of knockouts such as “Turn The Beat Around,” “Conga” and the eponymous “Get On Your Feet,” is complemented with the touching original song “If I Never Got to Tell You,” written by Gloria Estefan and her daughter Emily Estefan.
The biggest star of the show was Ana Villafane, who played Gloria Estefan in her debut credit on a Broadway stage. Villafane was praised for her dominant stage presence and incredible congeniality to Gloria Estefan herself. Other cast members included Broadway veterans Andrea Burns, Alma Cuervo and Josh Segarra.
Upon opening in Broadway, On Your Feet! received great reviews and stable sold out shows for months. In a season dominated by the record smashing Hamilton, many thought that the Estefans’ life story would be the second most successful show. The production enjoyed its biggest sales and relevance during the beginning of the 2016 presidential election campaign, when the negative criticism of Latin American immigration became a prominent topic. However, the show failed to receive award season recognition, receiving only one Tony nomination for Best Choreography, which it lost to Hamilton. This hurt the show’s box office.
Nevertheless, thanks to smart ticket pricing and lottery policies, the show went to play for another year to the utmost joy of the audiences, fans and producers. But the journey of On Your Feet! is far from over. The Estefans have already announced a U.S. National Tour and multiple international productions in France, Germany and Japan, indicating a growing interest outside the streets of New York City. Although the show has closed its doors on Broadway, its story is still opening a new chapter.