Structurally, the show employs flashback to show Gloria's childhood and very tiny glimpses of Emilio's. Both came from Cuban families who immigrated to Miami in search of a better life. One of the most powerful moments in the story happens when Emilio fights with a record producer who is trying to screw him over and he replies by saying "I pay my taxes and take a very good look at my face because this is what an American looks like." This show is the story of immigrants who have fought for every ounce of respect they ever earned in the music business and keep fighting throughout their lives. The emotional climax of the show comes when the Estefans' bus is in an accident and Gloria comes within an inch of paralysis. She uses her fans' well wishes to propel her through physical therapy, culminating in a comeback performance a the American Music Awards. Ana Villafane is fantastic as Gloria and Josh Segarra is equally effective as Emilio. Alma Cuervo's Consuelo, Gloria's Abuela, is the highlight acting performance in the show. She may not have a huge amount of stage time, but when she is onstage, she packs a punch. She also has a major role in the show's turning point, by encouraging Gloria to sing with Miami Sound Machine (then Miami Latin Voice) even when her mother discouraged her. Speaking of which, Andra Burns plays Gloria's mother, also named Gloria, in a beautifully layered way. She is a fierce, strong woman who has done everything she can for her family and is extremely protective, even at the expense of sacrificing her own dreams. She is very stern and emotionally closed off, especially toward Emilio, until Gloria's accident when she realizes how much she has missed by pushing the family away.
This piece uses the same template that Beautiful used with Carole King's music and it has become a huge hit. This show is equally effective in telling the story of the Estefans through their music, but I wonder if these songs are as appealing to a New York audience as King's. The Marquis theatre has also been known to eat shows, in fact I cannot remember the last time it produced a hit. I did love this show though, and it's an extremely entertaining night at the theatre. If you love Conga, 123, On Your Feet, Turn the Beat Around, and my personal favorite, Reach, I highly recommend this. If nothing else, you'll cha-cha out of the theatre with a song in your heart.