Based on the 1977 film starring John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever is reimagined on stage by director Ryan McBride. Featuring one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time, it is sure to take audiences back to the disco era in style.
Anyone that has seen the film will know that it's more than just a musical. Saturday Night Fever is a surprisingly dark character study, set on the unforgiving streets of Brooklyn. Danny Bayne plays Tony Manero; an Italian-American teen working in a hardware store and frustrated with his lot in life. Contending with limited funds, a dysfunctional family and misguided views on women, disco is his only form of escapism.
Besotted with Tony, Annette (Bethany Linsdell) is excited to be his dance partner at a forthcoming dance contest at the 2001 Odyssey disco. However, she is rejected and replaced when Tony discovers the Lycra-clad Stephanie Mangano (Naomi Slights). Even if she is only interested in a professional relationship. Elsewhere, Tony's small group of friends have problems of their own, with unplanned pregnancies and gang violence to contend with.
Rather than being confined to one or two sets, clever use of video projection transforms the environment to take you effortlessly across the city. Muted greys and browns occupy the homes, streets and Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, in bleak contrast to the (quite literally) dazzling lights of the disco.
All of the classic sounds of the seventies are featured, from the Bee Gees Night Fever to How Deep Is Your Love. One of the most creative performances is Jive Talking, where Tony and his friends use a basketball and baseball bats as improvised instruments. Speaking of which, with exception of the drummer (Nick James), everything from guitars to the saxophone are played live on stage by the multi-talented cast.
While Danny Bayne is clearly an accomplished dancer and performer, his voice sometimes gets lost during the iconic disco songs; fairing much better during acoustic arrangements. Fortunately the supporting ensemble help raise the energy levels when needed, particularly in the second act. However, it never felt like the audience wanted to rise to their feet and dance, due perhaps to the overall tone of the piece.
The show does a valiant job of bringing the raw emotion and grittiness from screen to stage, without pulling any punches. From a televised address from then-President Jimmy Carter to flared fashions, the 1970s are recreated in great detail. While undoubtedly a reflection on the characters and era, one particular "joke" suggesting that Elton John's bisexuality meant that he likes both men and boys felt unnecessary and uncomfortable.
Saturday Night Fever is undoubtedly a mature drama, with re-arranged music serving to enhance the story and mood. Discretion is advised if bringing along younger audience members due to strong language throughout. If you enjoyed the 1977 film, then you’ll find this a fairly faithful adaptation. However, without the Bee Gees iconic voices to suggest that you should be dancing, you probably won’t be.