Saturday Night Fever – Review – Bradford Alhambra
By Steve Crabtree, November 2022
The Alhambra goes disco this week, as Saturday Night Fever travels from Brooklyn to Bradford in the stage version of the classic 70s film.
And I’ve got to say, with disco being my go-to genre when I’m cranking up Spotify, this was a show I’d been looking forward to seeing for a while. The production has been around for 24 years and, unbelievably, this was my first time watching it. So, excited wasn’t the word.
“Disco, coolness and ego”
As the curtain goes up we’re in downtown 70s Brooklyn. Tony Monero is in a dead-end job in a hardware store, but he’s got charm, wit and he’s liked by his employer and the customers too. But what he really lives for is the colours and the lights of the weekend. And the dancing.
In case you didn’t know, dancing is at the forefront of Saturday Night Fever. And unfolding before us was a show filled with disco, coolness and ego. Together with the raw politics of its time, and some incredible choreography.
Jack Wilcox took the Tony Manero role, and played the lead character fantastically well. He nailed the prowling strut, the voice and mannerisms of the character made famous by John Travolta. He had the moves, and was believable and likeable in everything he did on the stage. And plenty of onlookers especially liked him when he whipped his torso out during a couple of outfit changes!
Alongside him was Rebekah Bryant, who’s Stephanie Mangano was as edgy as it was elegant. Another polished dancer, and a perfect foil for Wilcox. They fit together perfectly, and their dance to ‘Words’ during a coffee shop scene brought a gently applied break to the tempo, and a very beautiful moment.
“Every move out of the bag”
It wasn’t just the lead roles who deserve credit though. Saturday Night Fever is all about the high-energy, precision disco moves that needed executing by a strong team. Ashley Luke Lloyd was one who didn’t miss a step, and Tosca Fischer stood out and pulled every move out of the bag. But then, so did everyone. As a collective, the dance scenes were strong and stunning to watch.
And I can’t forget Faizal Jaye’s DJ Monty. Nailing the 70s disco PA-style announcements, he added a bit of comedy from time to time. It was a smaller part, but one everyone enjoyed.
There’s some depth in the production as well. Tony’s home-life and relationship with his father isn’t pleasant, and the vulnerability of Bobby C, who ends his life, hits quite hard. Massive credit to Harry Goodson-Bevan for how he portrays that role. In fact, much of the second act is quite a darker patch on the first, where some of the more hard-hitting sub-plots from the film come in to play a little. Some of it is a little underwritten perhaps, but much of it is quite gritty for the stage.
In and amongst the enjoyment, a standout moment for me came right at the end of the first act. If you’ve ever seen Wicked, and felt the euphoria at the end of Act One as ‘Defying Gravity’ plays out, well Saturday Night Fever brings the interval in with a similar, albeit more funky, euphoric punch. You find yourself in need of a breath as the curtain comes down.
“The hits are substantially packed in”
As much as I was enjoying Saturday Night Fever, one thing I feel unsure about is the Bee-Gee clones adorning the Brooklyn skyline and performing the majority of the soundtrack throughout the night. I’m really undecided whether this is a good thing or not. The songs are obviously synonymous with the group, and a nudge towards their importance in the film is a must. But, when you’re expecting some of the cast to open their mouths and sing some of the tunes at various points, for the most part they don’t… the guys in the sky do. I feel it tries a bit too hard here, and slightly dis-joints the music and the musical from time to time. I don’t know – perhaps someone else singing the Bee-Gees’ songs wouldn’t have carried the right vibe.
However, on the whole this didn’t spoil anything. Think of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, and all the hits are substantially packed in: ‘Stayin’ Alive’, ‘How Deep Is Your Love’, ‘Night Fever’ and the rest are there. They all sounded great, as good as the original versions you know and love.
“Fast moving, edgy and enjoyable”
As the evening moved, the feel-good factor swirled around the theatre in the same way the glitterballs shone the lights around us. Cleverly, where the dancefloor lights up, an angled mirrored backdrop meant that the disco effect wasn’t missed by us in the stalls. The entire set up of Saturday Night Fever worked. From the backstreet fire-escapes, to the hardware store, the dance studio and the Monero’s front room.
And at the end of a fab show, we were treated to a megamix of ‘Disco Inferno’, ‘Night Fever’ and ‘You Should Be Dancing’. The Alhambra was finally up on its feet, dancing away and making moves of our own. There are not many (if any) shows where I’d love to have got up on stage and joined in.
It’s fair to say I absolutely loved Saturday Night Fever. It’s a show that made a huge impression on this disco fan, for not only delivering an abundance of incredible tunes but also letting us have a fast moving, edgy and enjoyable story with it too. I get married in July 2023, and in my head I’m planning the evening do to be full of mirrors, glitterballs and disco now, with an abundance of perhaps not as great dancing! The future Mrs C is More Than A Woman to me… but we’ll see what she says about that.
Saturday Night Fever runs at the Alhambra, Bradford until Saturday 12th November.