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T.A. Moreland

T.A. Moreland

Theatre Review: On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan

It's 1975 and they are the Miami Latin Boys. A modestly successful boy band. Then in 1977, they hear young Gloria Fajardo sing, sign her and become the Miami Sound Machine. After ten years, she marries the band's manager Emilio Estefan, and when her star power can no longer be denied, they change the group's name to Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine.

Next, the producers want the band to stay within the Latin market. Emilio refuses to be pigeonholed; he realizes that they have something very special to offer the world.

This is just part of the story of On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan now on stage at Broadway's Marquis Theatre. From the opening curtain, this production exudes energy and creates a connection that grabs you until intermission and then grabs you right back again after the break!

Intertwined with captivating dancing and singing is this marvelous story of the exceedingly talented performer, Gloria and her marketing genius, but also her musically talented husband, Emilio. Her talent combines with his vision, forever changing the music world.

But this story is just not one of fame and glory. This group had to fight to have their unique sound given the mainstream exposure it deserved. There are plenty of other hurdles as well.

As a child, Gloria has to care for her chronically ill father, deal with her mother's conflicts over her own unfulfilled entertainment dreams, and Gloria's difficult decision to leave college to pursue her career full-time.

Then there is Gloria's tragic accident at the height of her career.

Even if you have never heard of Gloria Estefan (which is highly unlikely), you will embrace this story and this production.

I am frankly not sure if there has ever been a better cast. This is a strong chain of performers, without a single weak link. It all starts with Ana Villafane in the lead role of Gloria. She rocks it! Her voice ranges from soothingly angelic to absolutely earth shaking. Josh Segarra is Emilio and has the authentic onstage persona of a man who would create a recording empire. (He and Gloria are worth a half billion dollars and are part owners of the Miami Dolphins.)

The dancers seem to have so much fun; it's as if they would gladly perform these steps even if there were no audience.

On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan is an engaging story, with phenomenal dancing, and sinfully provocative singing, all woven together in this onstage masterpiece.

I'll put it very simply - GO SEE: On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan. It's playing at the Marquis Theatre 46th St. between Broadway and 8th Ave.

  • Published in Theatre

Theatre Review: Kinky Boots

This is a story that gives real meaning the phrase: Truth is Stranger than Fiction.

Here goes: A British manufacturer of high-end men's shoes struggles to survive. In an increasingly disposable society, customers are less interested in shoes guaranteed to last them for years. In a chance encounter, the factory owner's son, Charlie Price, meets a drag queen named Lola who convinces Charlie that there is a real market for women's shoes – made for men!

Charlie and Lola create a partnership, and the shop that once made footwear for elite Englishmen switches gears. It still makes shoes for men but for men with a different style of dress – no pun intended.

This production begins as a mildly interesting story set in a factory in decline. The dialogue is routine and frankly, I am starting to not expect very much. Then on the stage arrives Wayne Brady as Lola! This play takes off. It's like a football team waiting for a few plays to bring in their star quarterback.

This is a Wayne Brady that you probably haven't seen before. He's had his own television program, The Wayne Brady Show, and he currently hosts, Let's Make a Deal. But here, he absolutely owns the role of Lola. It's not just his exceptional singing and dancing, it's the complete presentation. The dresses and wigs turn him into a stunning individual; however, his thin, unattractive, typical black man's legs do serve to undermine his overall appearance (I can say that because I too have thin, unattractive black men's legs!).

The night I saw Kinky Boots, Charlie Price was played by the understudy, Ross Lekites. Andy Kelso is usually in that role. However, Ross was excellent, his timing, singing, acting were as if he were the lead performer.

The music and lyrics are by Cyndi Lauper (Girls Just Wanna Have Fun), and its direction and choreography by Jerry Mitchell.

The set was modest but more than adequate for the storyline.

The bottom line is put on your shoes, boots, or whatever you wear and get down to The Al Hirschfeld Theatre, at 302 West 45th Street and see Kinky Boots.

  • Published in Theatre

Movie Review: London Has Fallen

The world is shocked by the unexpected death of the British Prime Minister. The leaders of the Western World including U.S. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) immediately make plans to attend the funeral in London. The Secret Service navigates through what is security nightmare: multiple nations mapping out plans to keep their leaders safe while in England. Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett), the Director of the United States Secret Service, even tries to keep the President from attending. But due to the longstanding bond between the two nations, the chief executive feels he has no choice.

Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) head of the Secret Service Presidential Protection Division whose wife is pregnant, and who plans to quit his dangerous job, drafts his resignation when he gets the call to lead the detail charged with protecting the president while attending the funeral. However, once they arrive in London their worst fears are confirmed. It's all a setup. A devastating barrage of bombs and bullets rain down on London.

London Has Fallen is a sequel to the 2013 film, Olympus Has Fallen. This version is shocking in its storyline – an organized attack on world leaders - and its execution of that story – seeing those attacks so ruthlessly carried out. The images are unimaginably destructive, historical and treasured British landmarks leveled before your eyes. The cinematography expertly captures every horrid angle of death and devastation. Frankly, this is the basis for my rating this film a "See It!"

This movie provides the excitement – and violence – that those who are most likely to go see this film will expect to see. An exceptional cast: Gerard Butler as the secret service lead, has that edge which gives his character credibility. Aaron Eckhart looks and behaves like what we would traditionally view as presidential. Morgan Freeman plays Vice President, Allan Trumbull, takes charge in a way that we would hope the VP would do in the absence of the president.

However, there are serious flaws in London Has Fallen. The almost complete success of this attack causes some credibility problems. No matter how well planned, things usually go awry. Much more than they did with this plan. At some points the story becomes completely predictable. This movie is also plagued by overly simplistic dialogue. When the attackers obviously have details that aided in their planning, President Asher opines: This had to be an inside job! Secret Service Director Jacobs also comments: They must have been planning this for a long time!

As to our diversity rankings, London Has Fallen gets a B+. It's very diverse in the sense black characters. Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman and Colin Salmon, who plays the Scotland Yard Chief, all have substantive roles. However, there is a lack of other people of color, specifically very few Asians and Hispanics.

London Has Fallen opens on March 4, 2016, is 1 hour and 39 minutes in length, and is rated R (for strong violence and language throughout). It receives our highest rating: See It!, for its action and excitement.

Movie Review: Risen

What has been called, "The Greatest Story Ever Told", the resurrection of Jesus, has been produced often in television and film versions. The most recent adaptation, is in the film, Risen. In this rendering a nonbeliever, Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), a Roman Centurion investigates the reports that Yeshua (Cliff Curtis) as Jesus is referred to, has indeed risen from the dead as his believers claim. Clavius watched the crucifixion, so he knows Yeshua is dead. And the only logical explanation for the fact his body is missing is that his followers have stolen it. But as Clavius pursues that theory he reasons that if he locates the followers, he'll locate the body. But when he finds them, with them is not a dead body but the miracle of Jesus Christ.

Risen is a subtly powerful film. And of course, there is no doubt as to how this story turns out. Risen works because it takes a different angle in telling this often told story. And it succeeds in that effort. The impact and originality of this movie comes through in its methodical recounting of the powerful impact this amazing event has on one man. But for those filmgoers who have become accustomed to fast paced, action packed movies, this slow, deliberative production may drag a bit too much for you.

As to the films diversity, it was not a diverse cast. Most of the characters are a variation of Caucasian, blond blue eyed, to swarthy. However, Jesus is played by a person of color, Cliff Curtis, who is Māori, an indigenous Polynesian person from New Zealand. Based upon that fact, I give Risen a "B" for cast diversity.

Risen gets a mixed review. For those who are spiritual in their outlook, they should See It. But those who are not, wait and Rent It.

Risen is rated PG-13 for its Biblical violence including some disturbing images. And it is 107 minutes in length.

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