Wednesday, December 7

Saturday Night Fever – Edinburgh Playhouse

Adapted from the acclaimed 1977 film of the same title, ‘Saturday Night Fever’ is a show that, regardless of whether you are familiar with the original film or not, will hit you with an urge to dance as soon as you hear the Bee Gees soundtrack, an absolute delight for the ears all the way through.

Greeting its audience with a very satisfying opening, sounds of electric guitars echoing loudly as the music smoothly morphs into ‘Stayin’ Alive’, our three Bee Gees singers (Aj Jenks, Drew Ferry and Oliver Thompson, nailing every single one of the songs) are ready to go, a full cast on stage dancing energetically to the classic hit, disco balls turning the theatre into a giant discothèque.

Our hero in this colourful Bee Gees infused landscape is Tony Manero, interpreted by Jack Wilcox, a young Italian-American boy from Brooklyn with an unconditional love for dancing, who spends his – yes, you guessed it – Saturday evenings boogying the night away at the 2001 Odyssey, forgetting his troubles at home and unfulfilling job. With an upcoming dance contest on the horizon, Tony partners up with Stephanie Mangano, played by Rebekah Bryant, a talented dancer whom he meets at the dance club – that is, after cold-heartedly ditching a broken-hearted Annette, played by Billie Hardy, a gallant move that will give you a good idea of how female characters are treated in this story, but let’s get back to that later.  

Photo: Paul Coltas

The dancing, highlight of the show – alongside the music of course, with a superb sound design by Dan Samson – is a joy to watch. Energetic and brilliantly executed, you can tell that this is where the focus has been placed. The choreographies, devised by Bill Deamer, are simply brilliant, even though the moves do tend to start getting somewhat repetitive after a while, lessening the excitement – although not the appreciation – of seeing the talented cast perform to the upbeat repertoire of Bee Gees songs. Faizal Jaye in particular was electric in his portrayal of DJ Monty. Although often placed by himself in a darkened spot of the stage, the actor’s dedication to being the liveliest and most motivating of Djs in his movements was unmissable, dancing with a verve that easily matched that of the whole ensemble.

Contributing to the delight in watching the dance scenes were the costumes (those familiar with the film will appreciate John Travolta and Karen Lynn Gorney’s dance contest costumes replicated in this stage version). Designed by Gary McCann, the vibrant colours and flowing fabrics beautifully supplemented the actors’ moves, adding an extra layer of life to the production. The 2001 Odyssey set was equally colourful and all that you could wish for, complete with disco balls, light up dancefloor, and a mirror, a clever addition that greatly expanded the space of the discothèque.

This display of colour is, however, almost doomed to leaving us rather disappointed when the story introduces us to the other sets. Tony’s home and workplace have been given a heavy brown brushstroke, producing a sharp contrast between, you could say, day and night, but thereby dampening the whole show with a very dualistic feel. The nuance lacks; where the first act is an upbeat display of boogying, the second act takes a sharp turn to a few solo singing numbers that cannot match the level of dancing, the mood swaying heavily to the other extreme. Even the female characters are given no option by their male counterparts but to be anything other than ‘a nice girl’ or ‘a b*tch’, which you won’t forget as Tony never tires of asking and reminding Stephanie or Annette.

Definitely come for the dancing and the music, but don’t think too hard about the plot; it doesn’t leave much space for conversing about the spaces in-between good or bad.

Playing until Saturday 5th November, find tickets online at https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/saturday-night-fever/edinburgh-playhouse/    

Reviewer: Louise Balaguer

Reviewed: 1st November 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★

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