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On Theater: Gloria Estefan musical will get you ‘On Your Feet’

On Theater: Gloria Estefan musical will get you ‘On Your Feet’
“On Your Feet,” a biographical musical about the life of Gloria Estefan, is playing at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa through Sept. 2. (Photo courtesy of Segerstrom Center for the Arts)

“On Your Feet” not only is the triumphant story of two Cuban immigrants hacking their way through the pop music jungle, it’s also where its featured singer luckily winds up after a near-tragic accident.

Gloria Estefan and her husband, Emilio Estefan Jr., took the world of Latin-flavored music by storm in the 1980s, but a tour bus crash in 1990 nearly wrote a premature ending to her story. It’s all detailed in the biographical musical “On Your Feet,” now on stage at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

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There’s plenty of sound and a smattering of technical fury in the production under the brisk direction of Jerry Mitchell and the frenzied choreography of Sergio Trujillo. Alexander Dinelaris has written a compelling account of the Estefans’ development of the prolific Miami Sound Machine.

For the key role of Gloria, the producers chose Christie Prades, who understudied the part in the show’s Broadway premiere. Prades delivers beautifully on both counts, as an actress and a singer, scoring highest when challenged either professionally or physically.

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Mauricio Martinez excels as her mentor and eventual husband, skilled in steely confrontation yet contrastingly loving and tender where Gloria is concerned. His solo numbers are too few but emphatically effective.

An equally powerful force is Gloria’s mother, whose own career dreams were shattered and who now guards her daughter with the tenacity of a pitbull. Nancy Ticotin pulls off this difficult assignment with zealous alacrity.

Two double-cast youngsters do their best to steal the show. Carmen Sanchez is a super-cute treat as little Gloria, while Jordan Vergara tears up the stage as a bar mitzvah boy.

The new Sound Machine, under the baton of Clay Ostwald, reverberates throughout the theater, igniting some spirited ensemble choreography. The lighting effects by Kenneth Posner border on awesome — except when they’re leveled straight at the audience’s eyes.

You'll be “On Your Feet” at the end of this engrossing story of personal and professional achievement. It’s a night of theatrical electricity at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

If You Go:

What: “On Your Feet”

Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa

When: Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 7:30, Sundays at 1 and 6:30 until Sept. 2

Cost: Starts at $72

Information: (714) 556-2787 or scfta.org

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