“On Your Feet!” dazzles at Shea’s Performing Arts Center

Electric musical tells tale of Gloria and Emilio Estefan


Emilio Estefan believes “On Your Feet!” is an important musical because it tells the story of the American Dream.

The National Tour of “On Your Feet!” opened at Shea’s Performing Arts Center on Friday and will play through Sept. 30. The musical, which opened on Broadway in 2015, tells the story of Cuban-American musicians Gloria and Emilio Estefan and how they overcame adversity and achieved success.

It features the Estefans’ hit songs and one original song, “If I Never Got to Tell You” with lyrics by Gloria Estefan and music by her daughter.

“On Your Feet!” is an electrifying dance party that sweeps audience members into Conga lines and has you dancing in the aisles.

But it also breaks the mold of a typical jukebox musical, offering the audience a poignant message.

“This musical is about this country—it’s about the American Dream,” Emilio Estefan said. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, people get inspired by the end of the show.”

Stepping into the shoes of an icon like Gloria Estefan is no small task, but Christie Prades, taking on the role of Gloria Estefan, rises to the challenge with grace, charm and a voice that could give Gloria Estefan herself a run for her money. Prades’ performance is so convincing, it’s easy to forget that you’re not actually at a Gloria Estefan concert in the 1980s.

The musical details Gloria Estefan’s life; from her early childhood in Miami after fleeing Cuba as a refugee, to the Estefan’s struggle to make it in the music business, to the car accident that nearly left her paralyzed.

“Music was my savior, it was my catharsis,” Gloria Estefan said. “It was my way of getting through some very tough times…music has been a healing force, especially after the accident.”

Mauricio Martinez shines as Emilio Estefan with a powerful, resounding voice. Martinez and Prades have captivating chemistry and together they offer a dynamic, sympathetic and nuanced portrayal of the legendary superstars.

Martinez feels portraying Emilio Estefan is a “big challenge” and an “honor.”

“I’ve admired Emilio all my life, and Gloria’s music is the soundtrack of my life,” Martinez said.

Martinez wanted to be a part of “On Your Feet!” because the message resonated with him.

“The message is, don’t give up on your dreams. No matter what life throws at you, get on your feet,” Martinez said.

As a cancer survivor, this theme especially resounded with Martinez.

“Like Gloria, I’ve been put in a bed and not known whether I was going to make it. And music was the thing that got me through it,” Martinez said.

Like the Estefans, Martinez is an immigrant, originally from Mexico and is “very proud” of his country and his heritage. He believes “On Your Feet!” is one of the most important shows to see right now because of the messages about Latinos and immigrants.

“Theater has always changed lives, but this specific story right now—a story about two immigrants who came from another country and built that beautiful empire they have through music—it’s so important,” Martinez said.

Orchard Park native Devon Goffman, who plays the Estefans’ record producer, is excited to bring this show to his hometown.

“This musical is all about celebrating your roots and where you came from – and I wouldn’t be here without my Buffalo roots,” Goffman said.

He saw his first musical at Shea’s when he was five years old and his return as a performer is a “dream come true.” And that’s exactly what “On Your Feet!” is about, at its heart: chasing your dreams with everything you’ve got, no matter what obstacles are thrown in your way.

“You can be them—that’s what we’re saying. You can be Emilio. You can be Gloria. It can happen to you,” Martinez said, “If you fight for it, if you believe in it, you can achieve it.”

Maddy Fowler is an assistant features editor and can be reached at maddy.fowler@ubspectrum.com.