Based on the iconic 1977 film, Saturday Night Fever centres around Tony Manero – an Italian-American nobody In Brooklyn, stuck in a dead-end job whose passions and talents lie in disco-dancing. Navigating the tricky waters of family tensions, pregnancy and the breadline is no easy task, but Tony discovers the possibility of independence through the prize money of an upcoming dance competition, and sets about trying to make his dream a reality.
Holding so much of the plot on his back individually, Richard Winsor has a daunting challenge in playing Tony Manero. With an impressive background in dance he excels throughout the musical numbers, but in trying to embody the iconic charisma of John Travolta he is never able to truly come into his own and make his mark on Manero’s characterisation – instead, he is forced to confine his physicality into an awkward recreation of caricature. Consequentially, many of the more emotional by-lines are muted through frictions of this conflict of representation.
Set to the music of the Bee Gees – brilliant portrayed by Edward Handoll, Alastair Hill and Matt Faull on a raised gangway upstage – the production holds a certain charm but is ultimately deflated by clunky direction. An unnecessary number of scene changes frequently plunge the stage into blackout, which halt any flow before it has a chance to get started. There are also inconsistencies within the pacing of the script – a number of the more serious plot threads are denied the stage-time needed to be resolved coherently – in particular, the suicide of Tony Manero’s friend, Bobbie C, and its aftermath seemed trivial; given no more than a passing glance before the glitzy finale.
Nevertheless, a general sense of coherence is stitched throughout the production by Bill Deamer’s large, flashy choreography of the larger dance routines. Combined with an excess of glitter balls, his era-appropriate routines showcase the evident talent of the ensemble, and serves as welcome highlights to an otherwise ill-conceived narrative. Aided by the fame of the Bee Gee’s score, Saturday Night Fever is accessible to younger generations who may not have the seen the film, and consequentially is able to stand in its own terms as a theatrical piece rather than a live representation of cult cinematography. An enjoyable performance - You Should be Dancing in no time.
Saturday Night Fever runs at the Edinburgh Playhouse until Saturday 27th October 2018.