Brett Herriot Review

Saturday Night Fever, Edinburgh Playhouse, Review:

An entertaining evening of musical drama

*** 3 Stars

One of the cultural highpoint of the 70’s was John Travolta’s break through motion picture Saturday Night Fever! Telling the story of Tony Manero a 19 year old kid from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn living life in his parents house and working a dead end job in a paint shop. He only comes alive when he hits the dance floor of 2001 Odyssey night club. A story of coming of age, love, sex, bigotry, crisis of faith and suicide unfolds and its all wrapped up in the biggest hits of the Bee Gee’s. This cultural phenomenon was always going to head to the stage.

The stage production debuted in 1998 with several successful west end and UK tours under its belt. Legendary theatre producer and impresario Bill Kenwright developed a brand new production in 2018. The Kenwright production tour successfully and following a pandemic pause enjoyed a short west end run in the spring of this year at the Peacock Theatre and now it’s on the road and calling at the Edinburgh Playhouse for a week’s run.

The joy of this particular production is that it looks a feels like old school musical theatre done exceptionally well but the creative choices do leave you wishing for more than just jive talking. All the characters are here and fully fleshed out with Jack Wilcox taking on the white suit as Tony Manero and he delivers a hefty cheesy slice of nostalgia with a hip swagger to boot. His dance partnership with Rebekah Bryant as Stephanie Mangano is capturing to watch but both aren’t taxed in the singing department.  In fact none of the cast are as this Kenwright production directed by Bill himself features the Bee Gee’s themselves! Of course it’s a niche tribute with Al Jenks, Drew Ferry and Oliver Thomson performing the roles of Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb respectively.

It’s a strange choice as the Bee Gees never interact with any other character in the show and hover over the entire show from a 12 foot high platform bedecked in gold lame outfits and perfect replica 70’s wigs; the three have peerless vocals and richly deserved the ovation they received at the curtain call.

The bulk of the drama comes in the second half as pregnancy, abortion and crisis of faith are tackled and special mention must go to Harry Goodson-Bevan as Bobby C he brings a rare emotion to his role that makes  Bobby’s loss of innocence captivating to watch. The same is true of Marios Nicolaides as Frank Junior who is wrestling with his catholic faith and makes the decision to leave the priesthood even if cost him his family. Nicolaides delivers a polished and capturing performance.

Gary McCann’s set design brings New York vividly to life with a set the has a strong flavour of the Brooklyn bridge accompanied by gorgeous cloths which truly shine under Nick Richings lighting design which runs the Gourmont from late night New York to pulsing lights of the disco. Dan Samson’s sound design delivers but can be a little rough at points perhaps going gentler on the faders would help. 

The hits of the Bee Gees are delivered by an excellent 5 piece on stage band under the direction of Musical Director Jeremy Wooton. The sound track of a generation needs the dance moves that defined that generation and Bill Deamer’s Choreography brings the goods  and the tight cast are on form although there are moments when it feels dialled in and going through the motions but by the time the company perform a mega a mix for the finale,.

This Saturday night fever is a solid affair and provides an entertaining evening of musical drama with the songs and dance moves that can get any party dancing and is well worth catching! So why not bust out your flares and head to the playhouse and start jive talking!

Saturday Night Fever, Edinburgh Playhouse Runs until Saturday 5th November for tickets go to: Saturday Night Fever Tickets | Edinburgh Playhouse in Edinburgh | ATG Tickets

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