You remember: The big dance competition is looming and Brooklyn youth Tony ditches love-struck double left footed Annette for blistering talent Stephanie. Tony’s brother Frank Jr, who joined the priesthood, has abandoned the choir-invisible and is back amongst the original sinners. Best friend Ryan desperately solicits advice regarding his girlfriend’s pregnancy. Will Tony and Stephanie’s searing ability be enough to overcome poverty, gang violence and the inconveniently gifted competition?
Saturday Night Fever’s book (script) is credited to Nan Knighton, Arlene Phillips, Paul Nicholas and Robert Stigwood. The music credit, of course, goes to the Bee Gees. This stage production doesn’t feature some of the elements in the film that won it an R rating, making it a great night out for the family, and an accessible vehicle for introducing a whole new generation to the Bee Gees’ music. This is perhaps a good moment to mention the stunning vocal work of Bobby Fox whose high notes fill you to the brim with disco fever.
Saturday Night Fever premiered on the West End in 1998 where it picked up a number of Olivier Award nominations. The Broadway production ran for over 500 performances, and since then the musical has seen a large number of popular revivals all across the globe.
Audio-Visual (AV) is expertly incorporated from the opening: a projected montage proceeds backwards through time, showcasing key historical moments. This all builds a powerful sense of nostalgia for a time that many in the audience may only know from films like Saturday Night Fever.
The format promises first class dancing as a central pillar of the spectacle and it certainly delivers. It’s a real showcase of what’s possible. The leads don’t actually sing, which may be due to the fact the musical was adapted from the film.
Marcia Hines appears in the second half to deliver a lesson in class and finesse: she radiates star power, which may be partially attributable to the way the directors appear to have cleverly built in a number of deferential gestures from the supporting cast.
Euan Doidge as Tony and Melanie Hawkins as Stephanie rise admirably to the challenge of their roles. The tragic journey of Ryan Morgan as Bobby was nicely realised, and Angelique Cassimatis as Annette was extremely funny. Stephen Mahy was a standout as Frank Jr, bringing the assurance of a slightly older presence.
The script touches on issues related to the impact of poverty. As we have seen income stagnation in recent years this is a timely comment on the impact of low wages on workers.
The set design was top flight, featuring everything you hope a large budget musical will provide: rapidly changing sets that revolve and swing and support the emotional and physical journeys of the characters.
This show is fun for the whole family and has something for everyone. It’s driven by nostalgia, but the themes it explores are as relevant as ever. If you’re hoping for remarkable dancing and singing all delivered in a compelling format you will not be disappointed!
Saturday Night Fever
Sydney Lyric Theatre, 55 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont (Sydney)
Performance: Tuesday 2 April 2019 – 7.00pm
Season continues to 2 June 2019
Information and Bookings: www.saturdaynightfever.com.au
Image: The Cast of Saturday Night Fever – photo by Heidi Victoria
Review: Oliver Wakelin