Based on the Paramount / RSO film and the story by Nik Cohn
Adaptor: Robert Stigwood with Bill Oakes
Director: Bill Kenwright
Reviewer: Tate James
Saturday Night Fever should have the audience on its feet; and, though its Disco score imbibes memories of glitter balls and light up dances floors, this new production sadly fails to excite.
Those familiar with the 1977 movie will recognise the Italian family in Brooklyn, beaming with pride at their son in the priesthood whilst showing a balance of disinterest in and reliance upon their no-good son who dreams of an escape as a dancer on the disco floors of Manhattan.
It’s not the story the audience come for though: of course, it’s the music. Who doesn’t love the treble sounds of the Brothers Gibb? In this new incarnation they appear before us in excellent voice, sung by Edward Handoll, Alastair Hill and Matt Faull, as a Greek Chorus singing the soundtrack whilst a mostly non-singing cast of principals act out the story of the West Side Story-esque dudes of the disco down below. Indeed, it seems to be one of the largest ensembles in a touring show to have travelled in recent years, and they can’t be faulted for energy, with Marios Nicolaides delivering as the pious Frank Jr and Owen Broughton as Gus showing just how smooth a strut can be.
But, essentially, this is a show about dancing; and it is in this department that the show’s lustre lacks. Bill Deamer’s laboured and unimaginative choreography fails to live up to the ghosts of Arlene Philips’ original which it so desperately tries to emulate, relying mostly on a set of line-dance-style group choruses interspersed with occasional flashes of authentic 70s arm-ography. That said, the cast dance well with the limited material they are given: especially Rhianne Alleyne and Javier Cid as Maria and Caesar, who most certainly should have won the dance contest.
Admittedly, all eyes are on Richard Winsor as Tony Manero. John Travolta in the film and Adam Garcia in the original stage production have left every actor to follow them with some rather huge boogie shoes to fill. Winsor certainly excites the crowd as he changes onstage into the iconic white suit and is undoubtedly a brilliantly talented dancer, but this role requires much more than good technique; each move should exude sex and confidence and, though Deamer has opted to capitalise on Winsor’s classical training in the choreography, the moments of quintessential 70s hustle feel awkward, and sadly he is overshadowed by his supporting cast members.
That said, the audience on opening night in Manchester certainly enjoyed and joined the cast on their feet for the final megamix. The music of the Bee Gees is always a tonic, but sadly this is one fever in desperate need of a cure.
Runs until 26th January 2019 | Image: Contributed