Richmond Theatre, London
Music and lyrics by The Bee Gees
Book adapted by Robert Stigwood and Bill Oakes
Directed by Ryan McBryde
When 'Saturday Night Fever' hit the screen in the UK in 1978 it had the country eating out of the palm of its hand. John Travolta's Tony Manero, powered by the Bee Gee's inimitable disco pulse had girls wanting him and guys wanting to be him. Robert Stigwood’s dance fuelled vision dripped with the illusory seduction of the 2001 Odyssey nightclub’s neon that offered a weekly escape from urban mundanity to Manero and his buddies. On the Richmond Theatre's stage however, Ryan McBryde's version of the show is perhaps a touch too dark and raw for a story that craves light and glamour.
In his programme notes McBryde describes Saturday Night Fever as "gritty, complex and uncompromising". With a plot that includes heartbreak, financial struggle and suicide all set to such a popular and uplifting score, its inevitable that a credible staging will prove challenging. That said, McBryde has assembled a strong company of actor-musician performers. The economy of the actor-muso format serves the show well, offering a strong sense of energy and vibrancy in the more up tempo numbers, while equally giving the darker songs a real raw and honest edge, notably in Tragedy sung by Alex Lodge as Bobby C.
Saturday Night Fever demands a fine leading man and Danny Bayne's Manero provides the show's driving energy. Bayne's performance as the arrogant yet sensitive Manero, complete with flawless dancing is worth the ticket price alone and he handles his solo numbers with flair. Elsewhere, Bethany Linsdell as the love struck Annette whose early rendition of If I Can't Have You offers just a glimpse of the singer’s talent as she makes fine work of the Yvonne Elliman classic.
Throughout, Andrew Wright’s well engineered choreography excites, suggesting both the glitzy pizzazz and the emotional turmoil of growing up in New York city in the last century.
Above all the show makes for an entertaining night out. Many of us remember the movie (it was my first ever sneaked-into "x certificate") when the Bee Gees’ sound defined an era. The middle aged will love the nostalgia – whilst a younger audience can absorb the sounds of a generation, performed magnificently by their peers.
Runs until 28th March 2015, then plays in Cardiff