Saturday, December 3

Saturday Night Fever – Palace Theatre Manchester

Producer and Director Bill Kenwright has taken the iconic 1977 film Saturday Night Fever that originally starred John Travolta and made a successful hit jukebox musical that has toured since 1999. 23 years later and the musical is still a crowd pleaser, the Manchester audience was a prime example of the pleasure this show brings with its feel-good factor pushed to its limit and pure disco tunes of the 70’s by a well-deserved standing ovation at the end.

The songs mostly consist of songs that were featured in the film’s soundtrack, which in turn were mostly written and performed by the Bee Gees. Throughout the performance AJ Jenks, Drew Ferry, and Oliver Thomson, were dressed as the Bee Gees and stood on a platform above the stage whilst belting out the iconic tunes we all love from this era – phenomenal songs such as ‘Stayin’ Alive’, ‘How Deep Is Your Love’, ‘More Than a Woman’ and ‘You Should Be Dancing’.

There is a small amount of song that are actually sung by the cast, but not all were notable performances unfortunately; however, what they lacked in individual vocals they certainly made up for it in their disco dancing sequences. I would say the show’s strongest quality is the incredible choreography by Bill Deamer the stunning authentic costumes and the versatile slick set design with an impressive use of a mirror tilted to reflect the dancefloor and gleaming glitter balls to transform the Palace Theatre into a 1070’s discotheque. Sadly, the sound team let things down in the show due to the cast’s microphones coming on too late or by being too low to hear the words/lyrics which was a little disappointing for a big production and quite distracting.

The story tells the tale of Tony Manero (Jack Wilcox) a young man who works in a hardware store, lives at home with his disappointed and unhappily married parents and has a huge passion to dance. The show has similarities to ‘West Side Story’, ‘Grease’ and ‘Dirty Dancing’ with Tony’s gang who are all disillusioned and directionless, trapped in their working-class NYC neighbourhood and ready to rumble for their patch. The gang’s brotherhood is strong with their common interest in dancing and girls, the glue to the friendship is their Saturday nights when they attend the local disco 2001 Odyssey together to dance and partner with girls. Tony is clearly the top dog of the club, and all the girls are putty in his hands desperate for his attention.

One night there’s an announcement that there’s going to be a dance competition with a thousand-dollar prize which sparks Tony’s interest to better himself and do what he loves to do ‘dance’, but the only problem is he needs a partner then in comes Stephanie Mangano (Rebekah Bryant) the new girl on the block who desires for a Manhattan lifestyle away from the loser guys she usually meets like Tony.

Apart from a couple of sub-plots about Tony’s brother Frank Junior (Marios Nicolaides) the golden child of the siblings who has decided to leave the priesthood shaming the family and Bobby C (Harry Goodson-Bevan), a friend of his who has got a girl pregnant and him not wanting a baby or to be a shotgun groom then takes drastic measures to be heard, that’s about it for the storyline.

Jack Wilcox led the production as Tony, he commanded the stage with his performance both as an actor and a dancer, it is clear he is a well-established performer as he never faltered throughout the evening filling every inch of it with charisma, talent and sensuality.

Rebekah Bryant played Stephanie Mangano, Tony’s dance partner and love interest was the absolute standout performer demonstrating incredible dance skills which were elegant and effortless, she was one of the few solo singers of the evening and her voice in ‘What Kind of Fool’ was stunning.

The pair exhibited great chemistry during their scenes together and clearly are well matched in talent both in acting and dancing despite Wilcox having a lengthier resume of theatre credits this talented actress is one to watch in the theatre world of leading ladies.

The show is high energy and visually stunning to watch, it has a good storyline which so often lacks in jukebox musicals. All the dancers/cast were fabulous and clearly came to life on the multi-coloured dance floor whilst their bodies gyrated in unison.

They all had incredible stamina throughout the fast-paced routines all of which contained the classic scorching hot moves we expect from being John Travolta fans of yesteryear.

Saturday Night Fever 100% captures the spirit of disco, you leave feeling upbeat, energised and ready to hit the dancefloor. So, if you fancy a trip down memory lane and a good old boogie to the Bee Gee’s then this is the show for you.

The show runs until the 1st of October 2022 at The Palace Theatre Manchester before continuing its tour in the UK.

Reviewer: Katie Leicester

Reviewed: 27th September 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★