Saturday Night Fever
Based on the film and story by Nik Cohn
Featuring Songs by The Bee Gees
Photography by Heidi Victoria
The Star Lyric Theatre
Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP
Strictly Ballroom meets Disco with a dash of West Side Story. Having not seen the 1977 film, that was my thought during the current live production of Saturday Night Fever.
The all-singing, all-dancing fly-away hair opening with the classic Bee Gees song, Stayin’ Alive builds the expectation of a fabulous theatrical and musical experience. This is a high energy production and theatre’s biggest mirror ball adds to the anticipation.
It’s about the journey of Tony Manero, a young man from the poor side of the bridge in 1975 New York City. Tony has the passion, the dream and the ability to be a professional dancer but he lives with his parents, works in a hardware shop and has some attitude issues.
The main focus in Tony’s life is Saturday night at the Disco Odyssey 2001 nightclub where he can showcase his talents. Along the way to the dance competition that has a $500 winners’ prize, there are plot twists and turns that involve relationships, emotional traumas and gang violence.
As Tony, Euan Doidge does all of the moves and was perfectly cast, as was Melanie Hawkins as dance partner and love interest, Stephanie, who does everything that Tony does, and in high heels. Hawkins’ posture and attitude has a bit of Ann-Margret about it.
Apart from the exceptions where a couple of the performers do both, the singers sing and the dancers dance. As Annette, Tony’s wannabe romantic interest, Angelique Cassimatis demonstrates her triple threat talents. The female lead singers, Paulini Curuenavuli and Natalie Conway, have superb voices and they brilliantly capture the era. Their soaring vocals are highlights. The male lead singers are Bobby Fox who excelled as Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys and Nana Matapule who at least looks the part. The cast of dancers, under choreographer Malik Le Nost, gives us some breathtaking moments.
The back projections that set the location scenes work well and save production costs as do the pre-recorded scenes in which Denise Drysdale and Mark Mitchell make appearances as Tony’s parents. Drysdale and Mitchell were interesting casting choices.
For me, the show peaks early. To signal the end of the interval and the beginning of the second act, the house lights drop, a musical “BOOM!” shakes the entire Lyric Theatre, Marcia Hines makes her glittering entrance and belts out “You” from her 1977 Ladies and Gentlemen album. Hines still well and truly has the pipes and is assisted by her mic level being around 50% louder than the other singers. That spot is easily the highlight of the show. She is billed as the Diva Estella, a character that wasn’t in the film version, and it’s obvious that Hines is playing herself, and why shouldn’t she?
In the final analysis, this production of Saturday Night Fever provides a fast-moving, mostly enjoyable theatrical experience that has your disco favourites, You Should Be Dancing, A 5th of Beethoven, Night Fever, Jive Talkin’, If I Can’t Have You, Disco Inferno, Tragedy, Boogie Shoes, How Deep is Your Love and many others. Also, the entrance of the 1965 Ford Galaxie is the SNF equivalent to the helicopter in Miss Saigon.
Saturday Night Fever is definitely worth catching, even if you get there at interval to catch Marcia Hines’ opening to the second act.