Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Saturday Night Fever, The Musical. Feb 13, 2016 ***1/2


Written by Robert Stigwood assisted by Bill Oates, featuring songs by The Bee Gees and others, produced by StageArt
Chapel off Chapel, until Feb 28, 2016
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Feb 13
NB The writer's credit (above-Stigwood) is taken from the program for this production. It does not match the credits for the original stage production. KH
Mike Snell as Tony Manero
Saturday Night Fever celebrates infectious, hip-thrusting 1970s disco music but also reveals a grim underworld that lies beneath the shiny nightlife of disenfranchised youth in Brooklyn, New York in 1979.

This production, directed by Robbie Carmellotti, is based on the West End revival (2013-14) that incorporates dialogue and songs from the 1977 John Travolta movie of the same name, simplifies the set design and features the dancers playing instruments.

The great strengths of this production are Luke Alleva’s sweltering, disco choreography, The Bee Gees unbeatable disco hits and the thrilling harmonies and rousing chorus arrangements by musical director, Tony Toppi.

The repertoire include Gibb brothers’ tunes, Jive Talkin’, Stayin’ Alive, You Should Be Dancing, Night Fever, More Than a Woman, but also the pulsating Disco Inferno (The Trammps) and Boogie Shoes (K.C. and The Sunshine Band).

Tony Manero (Mike Snell), Italian stallion heartthrob and disco dance king at Brooklyn’s 2001 Odyssey Nightclub, is obsessed by winning the club’s disco dance competition to cement his reputation as Brooklyn’s best dancer and prove to his parents and himself that he is not a bad-boy ‘loser’.

Snell is an accomplished dancer with a tuneful, upper register that suits the peppy, disco style and he captures Tony’s audacity and vulnerability, although he lacks the smooth sensuality and machismo of Travolta’s Tony.

Playing Tony’s dance partner, Stephanie, Sheridan Anderson is an assured, versatile dancer with a fine, bright, musical theatre tone and she effectively captures Stephanie’s brittle confidence and poignant hopes of changing her life by moving up the social ladder.

A musical highlight is Anderson and Snell singing the ballad, How Deep Is Your Love, backed by the ensemble.

As Tony’s adoring, needy ex-dance partner, Annette, Elise Brennan has a rich tone and warm vibrato singing If I Can’t Have You, and her duet of Nights On Broadway with Anderson features rich, stirring harmonies.

Paul Watson singing and playing guitar as Monty, the MC at 2001 Odyssey, is a crowd favourite when he leads the company in Disco Inferno.

A major drawback in the production is the uneven quality of acting, particularly in the paint shop, Tony’s family scenes and some of the nightclub episodes.

Unfortunately, some miscasting, shallow characterisation and poor delivery of dialogue dissipate the high-octane energy of the musical numbers and the darker narrative elements about sex, drugs, racism, rape and unemployment are less satisfyingly dealt with than the musical scenes.

However, the memorable music, vivacious choreography and effervescent energy almost make up for any shortcomings, making Saturday Night Fever a raucous night out.

By Kate Herbert
Mike Snell & Sheridan Anderson, pic Belinda Strodder

Creative Team
Robbie Carmellotti - Director
Luke Alleva - Choreographer
Tony Toppi. -Musical Direction

Mike Snell -Tony Manero
Sheridan Anderson -Stephanie
Elise Brennan -Annette
Dean Shulz -Bobby C
Paul Watson - Frank/Monty
 Duane McGregor -Joey
Joseph Spanti i-Double J
Jemma Townsend-Flo/Maria
Geoffrey Winter -Frank Jnr/Fosco
 David Sirianni - Cesar.

Emma Russell Daniel Ham Casey Davis;  Xavier McGettigan;  Madison Lee; Samuel Bennett Guada BaƱez; Cassie Miller; Rachel Bronca; Alexia Brinsley; Kai Mann-Robertson  Benito Veneziano.

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