Presented by Matt Byrne Media
Reviewed 6th July 2017
The 70’s: an era of flared pants, big hair and the unforgettable sounds of the Bee Gees. Saturday Night Fever made it to cinema screens in 1977, with John Travolta starring as the much-loved protagonist, Tony Manero. The film was adapted to the stage in 1998 by Adelaide-born Robert Stigwood. Matt Byrne Media’s production is the musical version’s first appearance in Stigwood’s hometown. Set in the Italian, Bay Ridge neighbourhood of Brooklyn in New York City, Saturday Night Fever follows the working-class Manero, who wants desperately to further his career, and who finds release from his current hum-drum existence through dancing at his local club.
Rodney Bates’ colourful lighting design, produced a vibrant lighting scape, accentuated by Matt Ralph’s dazzling, illuminated dance-floor. Coupled with Sue Winston’s suitably outrageous costumes, and Sarah Williams’ fun choreography that perfectly captured the popular grooves of the era, the show was a visual feast, bringing a slice of the 70’s to Angas Street.
The musical numbers in Saturday Night Fever are commonly regarded as the show’s greatest asset, with popular Bee Gees’ songs throughout. The quality of the original numbers, with high falsetto and tight harmonies, is hard to live up to. David Shire’s musical score has vocal arrangements that sit more readily in the average vocal range but performing them is still a challenge, one that, on opening night, the ensemble were unable to rise to. Frequent problems with pitch and timing left the audience disappointed, and on occasion, the vocals were so unpolished that audible gasps were heard throughout the auditorium.
This production’s greatest downfall, however, was it’s slow pace. Many scenes were fleeting and unnecessary. Scene changes on opening night were prolonged and frequent, and with no musical interludes, the performance was stilted, awkward and very long. So awkward, in fact, that some audience members left at interval.
The leads were perhaps the saving grace of this production. Sebastian Cooper, portrayed Manero with a perfect balance of sincerity and zest. Although not a dancer, he moves well enough to carry off the role. In contrast Amber Platten is an outstanding dancer and gives a fine delivery of Stephanie Mangano. The chemistry between Cooper and Platten was youthful and genuine. Special mention must also be made of Nikki Martin, whose portrayal of Flo Manero is particularly poignant.
Matt Byrne recently won the Richard Flynn Award for sustained excellence and contribution to theatre in South Australia and he should be commended for bringing new and exciting musicals to Adelaide audiences. However, this production lets down the cast and the audience who are expecting the usual Byrne standard. If you want to relive the 70’s flamboyant outfits, big hairstyles, and vibrant, disco-lighting, then Saturday Night Fever is the show for you. However, if you love the music of the Bee Gees, be prepared to buy the album on the way home.
Reviewed by Ben Francis
Venue: The Arts Theatre & The Shedley Theatre
Season: 5th-15th July @ Arts Theatre; 20-29th July @ Shedley
Duration: 3 hours
Tickets: $ 41.85 – $46.87