Saturday Night Fever UK Tour: Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
Reviewed 5th February 2019
More than 40 years since Saturday Night Fever hit the big screen, the new stage production is transporting audiences back to the 1970’s in their UK tour. Telling the story of Tony Manero who escapes the harsh realities of working-class Brooklyn life when he embarks on a reckless, yet thrilling road to dance success. Saturday Night Fever features the Bee Gees greatest hits including ‘Stayin’ Alive’, ‘How Deep Is Your Love’, ‘Night Fever’, ‘Tragedy’ and ‘More Than A Woman’, as well as 70s favourites ‘Boogie Shoes’, ‘Disco Inferno’ and many more.
The use of the Bee Gee tribute singers works well to change the production from its previous incarnations but at times it distracts from the storytelling and characters on stage. Unfortunately the use of pre-recorded vocals for most of the ensemble songs is a let down for a UK Tour of this size and becomes distracting at times. Whilst some of the more upbeat songs work really well being performed by the Bee Gee singers there are certain songs, ‘Tragedy‘ for example, which could benefit from being sung by the character alone to enhance the storytelling and empathy for the character. The use of funky electronic sound effects and an onstage band certainly makes it feel like the 1970’s and the costumes, designed by Gary McCann, definitely resemble this with their flare trousers, short skirts and stiletto heels.
The steel constructed multi-level stage designed by Gary McCann is fitting with the show and generally used well. Although some of the direction as to how the stage is used is questionable, for example walking up and down the steps for seemingly no purpose. Perhaps more creative transitions could work better. The lighting by Nick Richings makes further use of the bright lights of the 1970’s and works especially well during the disco sections within the ‘2001 club’.
Saturday Night Fever is most known for its dance and the dancing, choreographed by Bill Deamer, on display is certainly energetic. It is very typical 1970’s in style but generally performed well by most of the cast. Some sections do feel slightly lacklustre and wooden but perhaps this is the style rather than the performance? The dance competition sequences towards the end of the show combine a good mixture of styles and moves and the dancers all move gracefully and passionately demonstrating great partner work. Another really effective scene was during the song ‘Immortality‘ when Tony is able to finally express himself through his dance. The contemporary style of dance mixed with some of Tony’s signature moves works really well to convey a sense of emotion from the otherwise straight-faced character.
The cast are led by Richard Winsor as Tony Manero who is an able dancer but at times his characterisation falls slightly flat. Playing opposite him was Kate Parr as Stephanie Managano. Shining as Stephanie, Kate is able to showcase a range of emotions and make her character truly believable. Her vocals during ‘What Kind of Fool‘, one of the rare songs performed by a main character, are really emotive and clear, demonstrating very good vocal skill. All of the cast are clearly talented dancers but at some points during the show the dance moves feel a bit forced and lacks commitment. Raphael Pace as Bobbie C is also a stand out performance. His portrayal of Bobbie during the latter stages of the show is very good and whilst the direction of the song ‘Tragedy‘ may not have suited the character, his storytelling through song is very effective, highlighting the inner struggle of the young man.
Overall fans of John Travolta’s film Saturday Night Fever will enjoy this production. It’ll be a hit with girly nights out and hen parties but it is a very safe option with few innovative or ‘wow’ moments. If you are a fan of 1970’s music, dance and fashion then you’ll thoroughly enjoy this blast from the past!
Photo Credit: Pamela Raith