REVIEW: Saturday Night Fever

Saturday Night Fever by Nobby Clark
Saturday Night Fever by Nobby Clark

The party started in Brighton on Tuesday night.

The first night of Saturday Night Fever delivered a talented torrent of dance, music and drama to the stage of the Theatre Royal Brighton.

Where do they find these girls and boys who can dance their socks off (even more athletic than the Strictly professionals), play several musical instruments, sing well and act?

If they are part of a touring company, then heaven help West End principals as these guys rise through the ranks.

For me, the show’s momentum built up as the first act progressed.

I was initially underwhelmed by Danny Bayne’s Tony Manero - he has the look and stance of a young Robbie Williams by the way - but by curtain call I was cheering and stamping with the rest.

He has an amazingly subtle light tenor voice, inexplicable vocal range and he was a better dancer than John Travolta.

The Brooklyn accent never slipped and his exchanges with his brother, the Catholic priest Frank Junior (Matthew Quinn) were moving.

Asked why he gave up the priesthood, Frank said: “I look at that crucifix and what I see is a man on it dying - I don’t see God or even his Son.”

Saturday Night Fever is a frothy, exhilarating spree of a production but with a dark mineshaft at its heart.

For all the Odyssey Club dance excesses, the story of Tony - a macho anti-hero who lives with his downtrodden mother and unemployed and violent father - takes us to the heart of late teenage frustration.

It’s not until he meets Stefanie (Naomi Slights) Tony gains enough confidence to grow from boy to man.

Naomi, by the way, is another type of human being; she bends, shifts and makes shapes in ways most women cannot. Male audience members were transfixed by her Green Goddess emerald leotard.

It’s dance and music that’s at the heart of this blisteringly hyper and sensual stage show.

The Bee Gees harmonic sound tracks are interpreted with accuracy. Dance was reminiscent of Louis Smith whose moves infused Olympic gymnastics with fluidity.

Look out for Michael Stewart as Cesar whose airborne somersault brought the house down.

Describing the contrast with the movie, director Ryan McBryde says: “If you watch the film again you’ll notice Ms Gorney isn’t the greatest dancer. She’s quite ‘wafty.’ You can’t do that onstage - fortunately we have Andrew Wright working on the show. Andrew brings a dynamism and vitality to the disco sequences; his choreography is exhilarating to watch.”

I remember playing these tunes on tapes (remember them?) in the car over and over again many years ago - they made the London-Brighton journey pass in a flash, even the gridlock where the dual carriageway ran out at Bolney.

The musical is a great, heart-warming, uplifting night out - try to catch it before it moves on.