Saturday Night Fever, Edinburgh Playhouse, Review

Rating (out of 5)
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Nan Knighton (stage adaptation), Ben Richards (production), Arlene Phillips (director and choreographer)

One of the benchmark American movies of the seventies hits the stage in this fast-moving adaptation by Nan Knighton which recreates all the original Bee Gees hits with a huge ensemble cast. It draws comparison with Grease (reviewed here earlier this year) and is altogether darker and more ‘grown-up’ in its plot line. Ben Richards takes the lead role, New Yorker Tony Manero, whose only purpose in life is to repeat his disco dancing contest victory at the 2001 Odyssey night club.

Originally immortalised by John Travolta, there can never be the same spectacular intensity of dancing as the illusion of the movies can conjure. But if anything, the achievement is all the more impressive. Here we have flesh and blood actors sustaining both song and sharp dancing together for over two hours, and the effect is exhilarating and satisfying. The ‘tragedy’ of Bobby C, which gives the standard boy-meets-girl plot line an inflection of depth, could perhaps have been foreshadowed more clearly. Perhaps the production assumes familiarity with the film.

The staging is rich and impressive. It is no mere camp pastiche of the seventies Disco scene. The employment of the clichéd standard glitter ball at one point fill the entire auditorium with an effect which, oddly, transcends cliché. There is also some excellent on-stage use of mirrors. The Playhouse have clearly scheduled this to be something of a companion piece to the ‘Grease’. It more than matches that earlier success. Indeed, going by the huge turn-out, Saturday Night Fever clearly cuts far more deeply into the psyche for the majority of us. A hit.

Dates: Till 13 January 2001 Mon to Sat at 7:30 pm, matinees Wed + Sat 2:30pm