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Review: Gloria Estefan musical On your Feet! at The Marlowe in Canterbury

On a bitterly cold night in Canterbury, theatre-goers in hats and scarves were, for two and half hours at least, bathed in sunshine colours and sizzling disco music.

The Broadway and West End production of On Your Feet! which tells the story of celebrated songstress Gloria Estefan, now 62-years-old, at The Marlowe, was a joyous party, amped up by a dazzling performance from its star, Philippa Stefani.

Philippa Stefani as Gloria Estefan in On Your Feet! Credit: Johan Persson
Philippa Stefani as Gloria Estefan in On Your Feet! Credit: Johan Persson

We meet Gloria as a young girl in Miami after her family fled Cuba, with a wickedly funny grandmother and a loving but regretful mother, who cares for a disabled husband.

At 17 she meets music producer Emilio Estefan (Sharif Afifi filling in for George Ioannides), whom she marries, and the show charts their shifting relationship, struggles for success with band the Miami Sound Machine and the evolution of their music.

The plot, really, is incidental and dotted with cliches, such as Gloria being afraid to love in case she is hurt, and an embittered mother who missed her big chance of success. But this doesn't matter when the music and choreography is such good fun.

Gloria weaves through orange, pink and yellow sheets as she sings an ode to Cuba at the start of the show, while holding a washing basket.

From an Italian bride and her clutch of bridesmaids to bar mitzvah guests jiving awkwardly, none can resist the sway of Conga, the group's 1985 mega hit.

On Your Feet! Tells the story of Emilio (George Ioannides) and Gloria Estefan (Philippa Stefani)
On Your Feet! Tells the story of Emilio (George Ioannides) and Gloria Estefan (Philippa Stefani)

The infectious Dr. Beat and On Your Feet are also given their dues with slick and energetic routines.

The mood turns sombre after a bus crash, which leaves Gloria needing spinal surgery and fault lines in her marriage revealed, before they are painted over quickly.

Gloria's comeback, however, at The American Music Awards, strikes an uplifting and piercing final note.

On Your Feet! is running at the Marlowe until Saturday, January 25.

To buy tickets, click here.

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