Saturday Night Fever
Adapted for the stage by Nan Knighton
Theatre Royal, Newcastle, and touring
Travolta, high-pitched Gibbs and flares a-plenty: things we all think of when ever we think of Saturday Night Fever. Two out of three is what is on offer in this musical version of the hit movie. Better than nothing at all? Well, one would hope so!
Saturday Night Fever tells the story of Tony Manero, a streetwise hardware store worker with passion and the skills for dancing. He has the admiration of his friends and the people of Brooklyn's club scene, only inside Tony feels lost and that he's heading nowhere. The only thing that makes him happy is dancing to the disco beat. So he decides to enter a big dancing competition, but he needs a partner. Tony must find the right partner while escaping his home problems and friends who are heading down the wrong track. Can the win make a difference?
This adaptation by Nan Knighton, whose work includes The Scarlet Pimpernel and Snapshots, fails to bring the humanity, drama and grit that exists in the movie. Here on stage all the dramatic scenes fall short and are very underplayed. Instead Knighton has chosen to keep her version twee with OTT humour.
With a backdrop of the Brooklyn Bay Bridge, the stage is a basic bare dance floor, added to with the odd bar, seat and, of course, the dropping in of a disco standard, the big glitter ball. This is an ideal clean space, perfect for a large cast who are dancing for 90% of the show. Adrian Barnes' design was great, each scene lit well and showing great variation between scenes. The best was the Odyssey club scenes with excellent disco lighting creating perfect atmosphere.
To bring to life the ultra cool ladies man Tony is Sean Mulligan. Now anyone who's seen the movie will know how cool and slick Tony Manero is. Sadly Mulligan mustn't have seen the movie; instead I think he's caught a couple of episodes of Johnny Bravo! Mulligan can sing and he can dance as he proves by dancing through every line he has. Now John Travolta's shoes are not easy to fill, I agree, but being over the top and dancing every move you make on stage isn't the way to do it. Mulligan is well supported by the cast of great dancers and singers who ooze energy. But let's not forget the big name to the cast, Eastenders sad sack Barry, actor Shaun Williamson, who plays Monty the DJ. He was well he was a no-show. Do not worry though, he wasn't much of a miss as a competent Matt Curtis stepped in to give a nice comic performance.
With Saturday Night Fever you wont find a lot of drama, not much realism either. You will however find great dancing, bags of energy and disco tunes galore! Just don't expect anything or anyone as cool as Travolta - there can be only one!
Reviewer: Wayne Miller