I have been a fan of the hit 1977 film Saturday Night Fever for as long as I can remember. The love of dancing and the aspirations that come with it was something I grew up with having trained as a dancer from a young age. When I first watched the film I was blown away by the slick and stylish moves of John Travolta and how this really wasn’t just a light tale of dancing. It was gritty, dark and Saturday night was the night that you weren’t clinging on to life but you were really living. Saturday night was the night you came alive! I resonated with Tony Manero and Stephanie Mangano and their struggle to make it out of their current lives and into a life where their ambitions were realised.
I had first seen the musical version back in 2006 on the UK tour that came to the Wales Millennium Centre and was impressed by that stage version so had high expectations this time around with the new Bill Kenwright production. There is something so iconic about the character of Tony Manero – his charm, confidence and flawless dance moves and I really did struggle to see Richard Winsor as Tony Manero. The character of Tony is the main attraction and has to carry the whole show and for me Winsor looked out of his depth dealing with that task and wasn’t commanding in his execution of those iconic dance moves and choreography.
In the new stage version they had introduced a new device of having actors play the Bee Gees who are on a raised platform above the dancefloor throughout. I admired experimenting with this device but for me it seemed out-of-place and the voices of the actors playing the Bee Gees clashed with the characters solo songs. One particular moment that stood out was when the character of Annette played by Anna Campkin sang ‘If I Can’t Have You’ and was drowned out by the trio and felt odd. I had hoped for the device to get a second chance in the second half but when it did with Bobby C’s version of ‘Tragedy’ he clashed with the well-known harmonies that the Bee Gees are known for. It really would have been better to just let the actors playing the Bee Gees sing as trying to blend was two was too hard a task.
I did enjoy the Dancing Salsation scene as it was great to see the ensemble dancers have their moment to shine and deliver and the disco set with reflecting mirror worked well. However, if you are expecting this production to have the wow factor like the film and productions before then you will be left disappointed. I do hope that the production picks up before the end of its run in Cardiff as I do think some of the cast were experiencing press night nerves.
Despite feeling underwhelmed by the show, the true heart of the show is the songs and I couldn’t resist the chance to get up at the end and bust out those signature moves that have become synonymous with millions across the world. I do believe that the excitement that Saturday Night Fever evokes will continue to inspire generations to come and I look forward to seeing future productions of the show.
Until December 1
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This review is supported by the Wales Critic Fund.