A homage to the 1977 film, Saturday Night Fever musical makes a comeback on the West End. Produced and directed by Bill Kenwright, the stage adaptation is by Robert Stigwood in collaboration with Bill Oakes. The show traces the story of a young Tony Manero (played by Richard Winsor) as he navigates through his day job and complications in his personal life while aspiring to be the king of disco. He is confronted with the discovery of the personal life of his dance partner, Stephanie (played by Olivia Fines), messy relationships with his friends and a complicated atmosphere at home. Holding potential for nuance, the storyline is quite basic – it is the music and dancing that hold the show together.
The iconic music is given its due credit, with Jake Byrom, Oliver Thomson and James Hudson playing and singing the Bee Gees’ soundtrack, at the centre of a visible upper level on stage. They are accompanied by other musicians on either side, literally shedding light on those that often remain unseen in theatre. While the design helps elevate and highlight the magicians behind the music, it is quite a standard set of moving staircases and platforms seen in musicals. The visuals on the screen at the back help bring depth to the space but don’t add much depth to happenings on stage.
The show opens with an energetic dance number, aiming to set the tone for the next two and a half hours but the performance doesn’t always sustain that. The acting lacks sharpness and doesn’t capture very well the tension and complexity of emotions – the words and story go by without the audience experiencing much of it. The dancing is more promising, however, with new choreography by Bill Deamer. The energy of the dance and music rubs off onto the audience, with some joining in the party by dancing in the aisles, with added effect from the disco lights that shine though the auditorium.
The lack of artistic ingenuity is made up for in the entertainment value that the show provides. The party-like vibe, interspersed with some humorous jibes makes it an entertaining performance overall. The laughter, claps and even hooting of the audience when Tony changes outfits, keep the spirit of theatre alive. All in all, it feels like an average musical but is worth a watch for a relaxed evening with friends if you enjoy grooving along!
Playing until the 26th March, https://www.sadlerswells.com/whats-on/saturday-night-fever/
Reviewer: Aditi Dalal
Reviewed: 16th February 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★