Saturday Night Fever – Review – Sheffield Lyceum
By Helen Johnston, February 2019
It’s hard to believe it’s 42 years since a slim-hipped John Travolta donned THAT white suit and struck THAT dance pose in Saturday Night Fever. Even if you’ve never seen the film you can probably conjure up that image. Heck, even the dancing man emoji is striking that pose. And who hasn’t done that finger pointing move on a dance floor at least once in their life (whether in jest or not)?
Classics like ‘Stayin’ Alive’, ‘How Deep is Your Love’ and ‘Night Fever’, gave the Bee Gees the biggest selling film soundtrack of all time until The Bodyguard overtook it in 1992. It still remains in second place and defines the 70s disco beat. This stage production brings the songs to life beautifully with a feel-good show which had the audience on its feet at the end, transforming the theatre into a Disco Inferno.
The clothes might seem out-dated now, lots of brown flares and shoulder-wide lapels, but the music remains just as fresh and relevant. Hard to believe the Gibb brothers wrote all the new songs for the film in less than a week.
“Deft comic touch”
It’s a master stroke to have the Bee Gees present on stage, singing discreetly from a balcony as the action plays out below them. Edward Handoll, Alastair Hill, and Matt Faull are pitch perfect as Barry, Maurice and Robin and capture their essence superbly, complete with gold jackets and long hair.
The story centres on Tony Manero, a young Italian-American living in Brooklyn, who lives for his dancing. He is played by Richard Winsor, of Casualty fame, whose dancing is mesmerising. His solo to ‘Immortality’ is beautiful.
He also manages to produce all those classic disco moves without ever making them seem cheesy. When he strips to his undies to don the white suit bought for him by his downtrodden mum (Melody E Jones) he uses a deft comic touch to convey all the confidence of a young man who knows he looks good, without tipping over into unbearable arrogance.
The suit is worn for a dance competition at the 2001 nightclub (odd hearing that number which to us now is a year that’s been and gone) when Tony is joined by his new dance partner and love interest Stephanie Mangano (Kate Parr).
Dance is Tony’s escape from a difficult home life with an abusive father (Phillip Aiden) and a brother (Marios Nicolaides) who has abandoned the priesthood. Close friend Bobbie C, played with sensitivity by Raphael Pace, also has his own problems which end in tragedy.
It’s an emotional rollercoaster but ultimately uplifting. And you’ll be downloading the soundtrack before you’ve got back on the bus home.
images: Pamela Raith Photography