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Chris High reviews: Liverpool Empire 'Saturday Night Fever' 2005

Saturday Night Fever


Sean Mulligan, Shaun Williamson, Jayde Westaby, Rebecca Dent,
Stephen Webb
Director / Choreographer: Arlene Phillips
Musical Director: Pete Hagen
Monday 17th October, 2005
The Empire Theatre, Liverpool.

Saturday Night Fever promotional image

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER

The 70's: a decade of frightening hair, clothes and politics. A decade of upheaval and turmoil, built on the fragile remnants of and age of Peace & Love that promised so much but brought so little. Oh nostalgia, what can beat it?

Saturday Night Fever was a phenomenally successful movie and an even bigger album penned and performed by the Bee Gees. It was estimated that 1 in every 3 households owned a copy at the time of its release and secured its place in the Guinness Book Of Records as the biggest selling movie soundtrack of all time as a result.

The stage version, then, has a lot to live up to and, for the most part, succeeds.
Set in New York, Tony Manero (Mulligan) is a frustrated teenager stuck in the slums of the City, in a dead-end job and the brunt of constant criticism from his parents. He is the black sheep that never feels the warmth of the sun saved for his elder brother, Father Frank Jr., a priest and "bad boy made good."

Tony has three passions: disco, dating and dressing up to achieve success in both of the former categories. When he meets the fabulously talented Stephanie (Westaby) at Odyssey, the neighbourhood Disco run by the fabulous Monty (Williamson), Tony realises the upcoming competition to be held at the club is there for the taking and nothing is going to get in his way.

The music, as can be expected, is timeless and all of the hits are here: Stayin' Alive kicks the show off, with a little homage to the movie, with Tony walking along the street, whilst the signs that he walks beneath interchange to give the sense of movement that starts the movie, whereas Night Fever is sung as Tony gets ready to go out on a Saturday night, much to the delight of the audience.

To be fair, the first half of the show is a replay of the album and the story, such as it is anyway - a rework of West Side Story to all intents and purposes - fails to instil little more than a tribute vehicle to carry the songs.

The most notable aspects, however, are the dance routines that are executed with faultless brilliance and athleticism. Disco Inferno alone is a sight to behold, as is the energy that is used during Boogie Shoes. Throughout the show, the stage is mass of excitement and energy that only wanes as the music slips into ballad tempo.
When the second half begins, the story comes into its own. Now we are told in more detail the darker side of life missing from the first section.

Bobby C (Webb) who is desperate to fit in with Tony's gang, is mentally bullied throughout and Webb's version of Tragedy is incredibly powerful and is, along with Rebecca Dent's version of If I Can't Have You, amongst the major highlights of the show. Here are two people that need to have an eye kept on them; clear, strong and emotional, these are stars of the future.

The lighting is exceptional, the singing from the cast is clear and evocative and Shaun "Barry From Eastenders" Williamson as DJ Monty, is hilarious in his tight lyrcra shorts, curly wigs and spangly suits.

Overall, this is a great show that is good fun, if a little too reliant on churning out the hits before settling on telling a timeless tale of unfulfilled ambitions.
4/5

Click here to view details and book for the Liverpool Empire Theatre


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