Publicity photo of "On Your Feet." Photo credit Doug Hinebaugh.
Publicity photo of "On Your Feet." Photo credit Doug Hinebaugh.

Review: Get ‘On Your Feet!’ to see Gloria Estefan musical

The music of Gloria Estefan takes me back to the 80s and my teens.

The Miami Sound Machine’s breakout song “Conga” climbed to No. 10 on the Billboard charts in 1985, one of my favorite years. Other 80s’ tunes include “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You” and “Get On Your Feet.”

All of these are part of the musical “On Your Feet!” that is in Columbia this week.

“On Your Feet” chronicles the rise of Gloria and Emilio Estefan from the Miami Sound Machine to her becoming a soloist to her bus accident in 1990 and her comeback on the American Music Awards. The show is filled with dynamic vocals and high-energy, fun dance numbers that make you want to get out of your seat and dance along.

My daughter, Allie, and I traveled to the Koger Center for the Arts in Columbia on Tuesday to see the production for one reason. In 2021, on our first Carnival cruise after cruising returned from the pandemic, we met a performer named Kristen “Kitty” Tarrago. And Kitty is in the cast of “On Your Feet!” typically playing Gloria’s mother.

Kristen Tarrago from November 2021 aboard the Carnival Horizon in Amor Cubano. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

On Tuesday, however, she took on the role of Gloria, much to our excitement.

A little rabbit trail/side note, my son, Jeremy, had performed on the Carnival Elation in 2016 and 2017 as a dancer/singer. For most dance numbers, he was paired with Erica Morris, who was also on that 2021 cruise aboard the Horizon. Erica introduced us to Kitty who is a powerful singer with a rich voice.

One of the shows aboard the Horizon is called “Amor Cubana,” and it features a few of Gloria Estefan’s songs. I guess that was a little real life foreshadowing of where she was headed.

Kristen Tarrago in costume as Gloria Estefan. Courtesy Kristen Tarrago.

After she left Carnival, she joined the “On Your Feet!” in the ensemble, and we took in a performance at the Gaillard in December 2022.

It was great to see her again as she climbed from cruise ship to ensemble into the lead.

Kitty commanded the stage during Tuesday’s performance, owning the role, which she is perfect for. Allie and had a couple of flashbacks to her time on Carnival including “You’ll Be Mine (Party Time)” which is included in “Amor Cubano.”

While the musical is upbeat, there are a couple of poignant moments in the show such as when her father, a Vietnam War veteran, dies. The song he sings to her brings tears to my eyes when I think about my own father who is no longer with us. There are glimpses into her strained relationship with her mother from whom she was estranged until the devastating bus accident.

At the Koger Center for the Arts in Columbia. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

And Kitty isn’t the only strong member of this cast. The other actors also give powerful performances. I didn’t see a weak link in the bunch.

The ensemble is filled with stars too. They look like they are having the times of their lives on stage. I’ve been in multiple community theater production ensembles. It’s hard work, and you wonder if anyone notices. They do.  And these dancers and singers had smiles and energy until their final bow. They gave it all and then some more.

If you like Gloria Estefan, get on your feet to the Koger Center for one more performance on March 28. The show heads to Columbus, Ga. March 29 and then to Athens, Ga. on April 1 before ending the tour in Hollywood, Fla. April 11-13.

And if you can’t make those but still want to see the show, contact the Columbia County Performing Arts Center and ask the staff about getting it on their Broadway series schedule.

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News and Inspiring: Women of Augusta, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at charmain@augustagoodnews.com. Sign up for the newsletter here.

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One response to “Review: Get ‘On Your Feet!’ to see Gloria Estefan musical”

  1. Nancy Espinosa says:

    Kristen is amazing!

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