Saturday Night Fever – Edinburgh Playhouse

Unmoving and insensitive, Bill Kenwright’s interpretation of ‘Saturday Night Fever’ unfortunately does not quite deliver everything promised. This should be a sparkling night of entertaining music, heart-breaking drama, and spectacular dance numbers. Whilst the spinning disco balls and bold costumes do provide some sparkle, it is seemingly to cover up the lack the synchronicity amongst the chorus and poor chemistry between the leads.

Much of the drama centres itself around girls throwing themselves at leading man Tony Manero (Richard Winsor), whilst he idolises his gorgeous dance partner, Stephanie Mangano (Kate Parr). The pair fumble their way through dance numbers, with Parr very clearly outshining Winsor’s dance skills. Despite the audience’s tittering and wolf-whistling at Winsor’s well-defined six-pack, he appears to struggle to keep up with the choreography and often seems to be looking to his co-stars for support in remembering the moves.

Tony is a naturally unlikable character so requires a versatile and charming actor to keep the audience on his side; Winsor was just not that man. Parr is a joy to watch when dancing, yet her performance feels slightly wooden throughout. Her dialogue with Winsor is particularly stilted.

There are, however, some genuine moments of extraordinary dance! The other two couples competing against Tony and Stephanie in the final showdown are highly skilled. Sadly this only causes the leads to further pale in comparison. Minimalist, stylised choreography to the opening number, ‘Stayin’ Alive’, kicks the show off with enthusiasm and potential. Unfortunately, this standard isn’t sustained throughout. Transitions between scenes are laborious, causing the tempo of the production to dip considerably. As the musical numbers are obviously the highlight for audience, there are often moments left waiting for the dialogue to finish, so that our spirits could be lifted by the next Bee Gees tribute.

The Bee Gees themselves were entertaining (Barry Gibb, Alastair Hill, Robin Gibb). Their harmonies replicated the original songs convincingly, although often overpowered the solo items. Solos including ‘If I Can’t Have You’ and ‘Tragedy’, sang by Anna Campkin and Raphael Pace respectively, showcase their ability to belt over the musicians, but are rather dull to watch featuring one verse delivered from one side of the stage, the second from the other, and finishing statically from centre-stage. Despite the suggestions of the lyrics, an energising number like ‘Tragedy’ feels inappropriate to convey Bobbie C’s emotional lament. Without any accompanying choreography, the tone falls flat.

One of the greatest shortcomings of the show is its outdated humour. Jokes poking fun at sexuality and gender roles may be humorous when part of a genuine 1970’s movie, but don’t translate well into 2018. Certain punchlines elicit hesitant giggles and even a couple of shocked ‘oos’ from the audience. Ditsy damsels and the macho men that save them can handle fizzy and fun disco numbers, but when the storyline tries to tackle sensitive issues, we are left feeling more than a little uncomfortable. There are certainly moments worthy of laughter and applause presented in Saturday Night Fever, but disappointingly, this enthusiastic cast just doesn’t quite meet expectations.

 

PHOTOS: Pamela Raith

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Aiyana Tandon

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