Saturday Night Fever – Review – Bradford Alhambra

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Saturday Night Fever – Review

Bradford Alhambra, November 2018

by Sandra Callard

Saturday Night Fever was the highest grossing film of 1977 and thrust a young John Travolta to international stardom. The musical tracks also gave The Bee Gees the best-selling film soundtrack of all time, only overtaken by The Bodyguard in 1992.

Now touring on stage, could any modern singer/dancer/actor ever emulate the opening scenes of the film as Travolta’s white-suited Tony Manero struts the streets to the pulsating sound of ‘Stayin’ Alive’? Well, no actually, because the scene never appears in this new Bill Kenwright production. Why it does not is puzzling, because the iconic scene is as much a part of the story as is the lift at the end of Dirty Dancing. The audience anticipation heightened as Tony, played by Richard Winsor, dons the suit, then haltingly lowered as realisation set in, and disappointment is not a good emotion to engender in theatre.

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“Authority and charisma”

That said, Richard Winsor is fantastic in the role of Tony. He has the looks and the physique. He sings with energy and power and he dances like a dream. He is on stage 100% throughout the show and he holds the stage with authority and charisma. He is supported by an accomplished cast who sing and dance to the wonderful songs of The Bee Gees as if it was their last night on earth.

Tony can have his pick of the girls, and the overtures of Annette and Doreen, played with a touching yearning for the unattainable by Anna Campkin and Jessica Ellen are particularly adept and emotive. Annette’s plaintive singing of ‘If I Can’t Have You’ hits the right note, as Tony rejects her.

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“Fluid movement”

Tony sets his sights on Stephanie Mangano, a beautiful and socially upwardly mobile dancer, and experiences for the first time the pangs of a love that may not be attainable. Stephanie is beautifully danced by Kate Parr in an athletic and balletic style that is quite different from the disco dancing that Tony is so good at, but they dance together with a fluid movement that melds the opposing styles with ease.

The songs of The Bee Gees adapt remarkably well to the varying situations of the story, from the vigorous opening salvo of ‘Stayin’ Alive’ as the world of Seventies disco unfolds before us, to the movingly beautiful ‘Immortality’ on the death of a friend, and the uncertainty of a new love in ‘How Deep is Your Love’.

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“Appropriate homage”

The finest addition on the stage is without doubt the three singers who represent the Bee Gees themselves. They take no active part in the story, but act as a cipher or narrator by accompanying the action below them. Positioned above the stage and lit by some very clever lighting, care of Lighting Director, Nick Richings, the three consist of Edward Handoll as Barry Gibb, Alastair Hill as Maurice and Matt Faull as Robin. The three of them are superb. They pay a full and wholly appropriate homage to The Bee Gees by singing either wholly or in part to almost every one of the songs and anthems of the legendary band. They are one of the highlights of the show, and add to and enhance the story, which would be poorer without them.

This is a full-on singing and dancing tribute to the timeless music of a great band whose uplifting songs continue to be loved the world over.

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