REVIEW: Saturday Night Fever, New Victoria Theatre

This musical adaptation of the classic 1970’s film has great dancing and music – but feels as though it is lacking in story in places.

(c)Pamela Raith Photography.

Filled with classic songs from The Bee Gees and playful choreography from Bill Deamer, it can not be denied that this musical adaptation of the 1977 film starring John Travolta is great entertainment for those who loved the film or looking for a bit of nostalgia. However, the story and characterisations to some extent feel slightly pushed to one side – particularly in the first act.

Saturday Night Fever follows the story of Tony Manero – a young working class man who lives in Brooklyn and is struggling to find direction and purpose in his life – except for when he is dancing. As the story unfolds, the audience begins to understand more of why he uses dance to escape the realities of life including a unfulfilling job and a harshly critical father. On the weekends he visits a local disco to showcase his dance skills and discovers that a contest is taking place , with the winner taking $1000 – but can he push through the self-doubt and win with the help of his exceptionally talented partner Stephanie?

While Bill Kenwright’s production effectively highlights the dancing and music elements, it feels as though the darker elements of the story are consistently hurried through to get to the songs, with each scene short and sharp – except for the dance numbers. For those like me who haven’t seen the film, it can be then difficult to see how the story coherently fits together. There are huge topics that are covered in the plot including abortion that could have been explored in more detail, while the dialogue is really uncomfortable in places.

However, this being said the second act certainly heightens up the drama as tensions between Tony and his family and Bobbie C’s predicament reaches its head that reveal just how gritty this story really is. You can really feel for the characters and their situations and adds a much needed emotional weight that is lacking in places in the first act.

It is difficult not to find yourself tapping your toes along to some classic songs (although it is slightly confusing as to why the production needed the three actors to actually be The Bee Gees when the songs are well known) and fabulously fun choreography by Bill Deamer. Highlight routines include an emotionally heartfelt routine to ‘Immortality’ that highlights Richard Winsor’s skills as a ballet dancer and the lively routine to ‘Disco Inferno’ that is filled with a great energy.

As the lead, Richard Winsor perhaps slightly goes overboard with the swagger that masks Tony’s insecurities but soon relaxes enough to a glimmer of the character’s vulnerability to shine through. Will Luckett offers a deeply sympathetic performance as Bobbie C, capturing the character’s torment about having got a girl pregnant with great rawness. Meanwhile, Olivia Fines as Stephanie is more than a match for Winsor’s arrogant Tony offering great sass in terms of the character’s personality along with some beautiful dance moves as shown through the ‘Words’ sequence.

Overall, if you are looking for straight forward entertainment then you will enjoy this – but if you are looking for the darkness of the story to be conveyed as effectively as the dancing then you will be slightly disappointed.

By Emma Clarendon

Saturday Night Fever continues to play at the New Victoria Theatre until the 10th August before continuing to tour.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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