Picture: Pamela Raith

Saturday Night Fever

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry


This new spectacular production of Saturday Night Fever starring Richard Winsor (he can DANCE!) and a host of talents in music, dance and more is a sure-footed hot hit. It’s an unlikely story for a feel-good musical but there it is; that’s what you get.

It’s 1977, and Tony Manero (Richard Winsor) reprising the role that made John Travolta famous, bringing fresh life to a story originally based upon British rock journalist Nik Cohn’s 1976 article, Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night, in the New York magazine.  

Manero is a 19-year-old Brooklyn-born and raised paint-shop assistant developing a love and serious talent for disco dancing, employed to great effect at 2001 Odyssey, a seedy club by the river.

The girls (and boys) see his talent and charisma but it is not enough. Stephanie (Olivia Fines), new girl in town, takes his eye and joins him in a dance competition with winnings that could set them both free. Annette (Natasha Firth), previous dance-partner choice, is doe-eyed but accepting. Stephanie moves uptown to Manhattan. Can Tony hang on to her coat tails and get out of Brooklyn? Will they win?

This sparkling production has everything you’d expect from Bill Kenwright. It’s always been shorthand for high production values, great cast choices, brilliant and versatile sets; the best of the best.

The ensemble pieces such as Burn, Baby Burn are tightly choreographed (by Bill Deamer) with so little space allowed, and a HUGE mirror to reflect the dancers back, that you feared for their safety. Add disco glitter ball that lights up the audience and there’s some serious drama. Musicians are on stage, ‘Bee Gees’ (Jake Byrom, James Kenneth Haughan, Danny Knott) and band are just amazing. I loved the dance sequences – there are lots – but particularly the solo to You should be Dancing.

Tony’s friends provide storyline support as well as dance talent, with an additional storyline surrounding his family, where his brother Frank Junior (Phil Mennell) has recently left the priesthood and broken their mother’s heart (Melody E Jones). But in a moving scene – which garnered applause from the audience Mum tells domineering, violent, unemployed father (Grant Neal) to get his own beer and gives Tony a gift of THAT white suit. I admit that Richard Winsor changing into said suit on stage also garnered applause!

Every second is used to effect, and every second is hugely enjoyable. It is well worth a look. To 21-09-19.

Jane Howard


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