Saturday Night Fever – Review – Hull New Theatre
Saturday Night Fever – Review
Hull New Theatre, January 2019
by Rachel Howard
I can vividly remember the first time I watched John Travolta strut his stuff in the film Saturday Night Fever. Granted, it was a few years after its original release in 1977, but it still captivated me. In fact, it may well have had a part to play in my lifelong love of dance, so it was apt that I turned up to Hull New Theatre with seven of my dancer friends, ready for some Tuesday Night Fever.
Now, I have to admit, this was not my first Saturday Night Fever experience. I was lucky enough to see the original West End show, starring Adam Garcia, at the Palladium in 1998. Since then, I have seen a number of touring renditions at local theatres, so it’s safe to say it’s one of my favourites. I have high hopes…
“Excitement was building”
As the curtain raises, we are introduced to the main cast as they launch into a show-stopping performance of ‘Stayin’ Alive’ – setting the disco scene for the rest of the show. In the audience, feet were tapping, shoulders were shimmying and excitement was building. On the stage, the main characters are joined by the Bee Gees (Edward Handoll, Alastair Hill and Matt Faull), who provide the legendary soundtrack and remain on stage throughout most of the show, and DJ Monty (Faizal Jaye) who, for me, is one of the standout performances of the entire show.
The stage is set to tell the story of our main star, Tony Manero (played by Richard Winsor). Nineteen-year-old Tony works in a Brooklyn paint store by day, but dreams of being a dancer. He’s driven by a raw need to perform and he can be found living out his dance fantasies every weekend at the 2001 Odyssey club. When the club announces it is running a dance contest with a $1,000 prize, Tony knows this is his moment – he just needs the right partner.
“Clumsy in places”
Not short of an admirer or 20, Tony could have his pick of the girls, but his eye is taken by Stephanie Mangano (Kate Parr), a girl with big dreams and ideas above her station, but a fabulous ability to dance. The story follows their relationship on and off the dance floor, alongside more hard-hitting storylines including abortion, suicide, rape, religion and abuse.
Richard Winsor, perhaps best known for playing Caleb Knight in BBC1’s Casualty, dons the famous white suit and steps into some pretty big Travolta-shaped shoes. Having seen the film many times, and witnessing Adam Garcia take on the role in London, I am perhaps uber critical of Winsor’s performance, but I was left somewhat disappointed. The dancing is what every audience member is there for, and I felt it clumsy in places, repetitive and lacking the Tony Manero swagger. Something just didn’t click for me, and this was mirrored in the chemistry between Tony and Stephanie. I wanted heat, passion and flirtation, but I was left feeling cold.
“Taken back in time”
This isn’t to say there weren’t positives… Winsor’s Brooklyn accent was spot on and didn’t falter once, both lead stars’ voices were superb, and there was definitely an air of excitement in the room when Tony removed a few articles of clothing… (!)
The rest of the cast were excellent, and the numbers that saw the ensemble take to the stage were fantastic. Special mention has definitely got to go to the Bee Gees (despite one member mysteriously going missing after the first half and never returning to stage…). Their depiction of the soundtrack (still the second best selling film soundtrack of all time) was faultless. All the classics were there: ‘Jive Talkin’’, ‘Night Fever’, ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ and ‘More Than A Woman’. Coupled with glimmering disco-ball lights around the auditorium, you really felt like you had been taken back in time to the 1970s.
“Can’t wait for next time”
The set was not the most technical I’ve ever seen, but suitably did the job of transporting the audience seamlessly from Tony’s house, to the Brooklyn Bridge, to 2001 Odyssey. The costumes were perfectly of the time – flares, jumpsuits and of course, the white suit! Rarely has one outfit been so iconic.
Despite a few disappointments, this is still a show that successfully entertains and will forever hold a special place in people’s hearts. If evidence were needed, everyone was on their feet at the end strutting their stuff and busting out their own versions of the infamous moves and singing along with the two remaining Bee Gees (here’s hoping he made it back for the next performance!)
I don’t think my enthusiasm for this musical will ever dampen, and I can’t wait for the next time I get to slip on my Boogie Shoes and create my own little Disco Inferno!