I’ve never seen the film version of Saturday Night Fever, though I hear it focusses heavily on the performance of John Travolta playing Tony Manero. The story follows the wannabe dancer as he battles through troubles with friends, family and women. Ultimately, though, it’s just a story about a lost young man and a dance contest. So it relies on the charm, charisma and talent of its leading man.
Richard Winsor as Tony is a great dancer, but it’s obvious his skill lies in a more classical, balletic style. He looks silly a lot of the time trying to dance to the suave, funky moves that Travolta is so well known for. His accent is solid, though his acting is more like a very poor Travolta impersonator than trying to add his own stamp on the role.
In fact, the entire show lacks any level of emotional depth. Even when Bobby C is going through the toughest time of his life, I really couldn’t care less as Will Luckett plays the part as irritatingly as possible. The only character I really feel any sympathy for is the rejected and dejected Annette (played by Natasha Firth) as our leading lady Stephanie (played by Olivia Fines) is far too cold and emotionless to really care about.
The show revolves around great dancing and great music, with epic Bee Gees hits blasting out. The three Bee Gees, Jake Byrom, James Kenneth Haughan and Danny Knott are fantastic and add a bit of pizzazz and musical talent to the show. I’m not sure why each of the leading cast gets a song to sing, when it’s clearly not their number one skill set, but it’s soon forgotten about.
The set is also lively and cleverly thought through, with a huge mirror giving the impression of a dance floor full of people. This is the first musical I’ve ever seen where I wonder if the show would gain impact by losing some members of the ensemble. At points, the stage looks a little cluttered.
The choreography from Bill Deamer no doubt stays true to the film, not that I’d know, but I’m not its biggest fan. The moves are all a little jumpy and soulless. I am a huge fan of the fight scene, however, that manages to be both realistic and artistic.
I think the show’s created with dance lovers and disco fans in mind, and I’m not really either. However, it’s a feel good show packed with great songs and I did leave humming Disco Inferno to myself the whole way home.
Catch Saturday Night Fever at Leeds Grand Theatre until 31st August 2019.
Image credited to Pamela Raith Photography