saturday night fever

Kate Parr as Stephanie and Richard Winsor as Tony. Pictures: Pamela Raith Photography.

Saturday Night Fever

The Alexandra Theatre


There is no doubt that the success of the iconic film Saturday Night Fever was a surprise to practically everyone who was involved.

The film which catapulted John Travolta to stardom centred on the 70’s disco revolution in New York. The story might have been born in the USA but its success is every bit down to its British connections.

British-born director John Badham was asked to head up the fledgling project and helped to add real depth and character to Norman Wexler’s overlong screenplay. With a tiny budget of just $2.5 million it became a huge hit and 40 years later, Saturday Night Fever seems as fresh as it ever was.

This is largely down to its second British influence, the song writing of the Bee Gees. The film was already in production when Robert Stigwood, the film’s producer, asked the band to contribute a handful of songs.

Although the band was writing a new album at the time they gladly stopped and added their work to what they thought would be a small independent film. Little did they realise that their input would be become a major factor in growing the film into a massive global hit and contributing to a soundtrack that remains one the greatest selling movie scores of all time.

Their songs went on to major independent success alongside classics like Disco Inferno by the Trammps and If I Can’t have you by Yvonne Elliman.

The challenge of making this transition to the stage had been superbly answered by Bill Kenwright and his team in creating a multi-layered production.  Firstly there is the music. This is thankfully live and headed up by musical director Rich Morris.

Set high above the stage the band working with the falsetto vocals of Edward Handoll as Barry Gibb, Alistair Hill as Maurice Gibb and Matt Faull as Robin Gibb as the Bee Gees delivered a fantastic representation of all of the songs.  


Anna Campkin as Annette with the band behind

Next there is the dance. Whilst all of the iconic dance moves are there, Bill Deamer has taken a more classical approach to some of the routines. This seems to suit Richard Winsor who dons the white suit to play Tony Manero and delivers more of a Mr nice guy than that of Travolta’s sexy arrogance.

Windsor who originally trained in ballet and is best known for his role in BBC casualty, clearly has the more necessary skills needed for a stage production. Kate Parr plays Stephanie Mangano and is his very credible and elegant dance partner. Although the rapid moving storyline provides little opportunity to create any real chemistry between, there is a shared level of romance in their dance routines that shines through.

Unlike other jukebox musicals where the cast sing, here all of the music is produced by the Bee Gees band with two notable exceptions. Anna Campkin who plays Annette delivers a great solo version of If Can’t Have You while Ralph Pace as Bobby C sings a solid version of Tragedy backed by the Bee Gees. With a production that features such a famous soundtrack, sound designer Dan Samson was tasked at balancing all of the critical elements. The sound was first class from the subtle underscores of the original songs to the mellow ballads and full on into the power and drive of the disco classics.

This current production of Saturday Night Fever is no replica of the film but one that has been skilfully transitioned, edited and built into a highly entertaining and powerful musical. The dance may be more polished and refined than the sweaty atmosphere of the Odyssey 2001 disco but is nonetheless exciting to watch.

Visually it may have been parodied over the years, but you cannot deny its musical grip on modern dance production. The original film may have had modest expectations but its global success is largely down to one of the most enduring soundtracks of all time.

It’s hard to sit still and watch this excellent production on stage as all the time you are thinking You Should be dancing and in the final ten minutes - we all were. To 29-09-18

Jeff Grant


Index page Alex Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre