Interview: Matt Henningsen of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre

Put your boogie shoes on and disco the night away through November 12th

By: Sep. 29, 2022
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Interview: Matt Henningsen of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre

The 1998 musical Saturday Night Fever was based on the 1977 award-winning film by the same name. It features songs from the disco era, including many by the Bee Gees. The musical first appeared on Broadway at the Minskoff Theatre in 1999. The story takes place in Brooklyn, New York where Tony Manero works a dead-end job at a local store while spending his evenings at the discotheque, 2001 Odyssey. At the discotheque, Tony meets Stephanie Mangano, who agrees to be his dance partner for a contest. The musical tones down some of the darker parts of the storyline, putting the focus more on the toe-tapping music and incredible dancing. Matt Henningsen takes the stage as Tony Manero in Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre's production of Saturday Night Fever, running through November 12th.

BWW: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Henningsen: I am a New York based actor. I grew up on Long Island, and I've been involved with theatre pretty much my whole life. I did drama club in middle school and musicals in high school. I attended SUNY Cortland for musical theatre and graduated in 2019. I've been able to pretty consistently work as an actor except for the Covid shut-down. It's been great-I've worked in many different states, but mainly on the east coast. In between gigs I tend bar, and I continuously take classes to further hone my craft.

BWW: What is One Dream role that you haven't yet performed?

Henningsen: Charlie Price in Kinky Boots. The show is making a big comeback in the regional scene, so fingers crossed that I'll get my shot.

BWW: Do you have a favorite type of character to portray?

Henningsen: I enjoy trying to do different types of characters so that I become more versatile, but I feel most at home playing the Italian-American romantic lead guy.

BWW: What is your favorite thing about this show?

Henningsen: It's really a special production, and I feel honored to be part of it because the movie is so iconic. It was Travolta's big break, so being able to step into those shoes while also putting my own spin on it and working with the director to interpret the role for today has been a really cool experience.

BWW: Were you a fan of disco music or dancing prior to being in this show?

Henningsen: I was indifferent to disco before. I didn't choose to listen to it, but I could enjoy it when I heard it. Now I have a greater appreciation for it. It's made its way into my playlist. As far as the dancing goes, I had a big learning curve. This is the most amount of dancing I've done in a show. All of the dance moves are grounded in the 70s disco style, which is not something I had ever done before. It's definitely coming more fluidly now, and I really enjoy doing these iconic dance moves that even my parents have mentioned doing at the clubs in New York.

BWW: What has been the most challenging part of playing the role of Tony?

Henningsen: Mostly taking in the content-Tony's the whole show, so there's a lot in there to absorb. I had to find the fine line between my portrayal of the character and Travolta's take on the character that people expect. And, of course, with this being the stage version, it is already different from the movie that so many know and love. It is important to try to stay true to the original while finding our own interpretation of it.

BWW: What song do you think audiences will enjoy the most?

Henningsen: There is a megamix at the end of the show after the bows that is honestly one of the most fun parts of the whole production. It includes bits of most of the songs from the show, and the audience is encouraged to dance around and sing along. Other than that, I think they will love "Stayin' Alive", which is the first number that really starts the show off with a bang and a big entrance for Tony. It's an iconic song that invites the audience to join us in the story. I also think they'll enjoy "Disco Inferno" because it's the biggest dance number.

BWW: This is a musical that has stood the test of time-from the movie in 1977 to the stage musical in 1998. What do you think makes this show so popular?

Henningsen: I read an article on this very topic-it's an enigma because it's such a period piece, but it has lasted well beyond the 70s. The story is deeply rooted in the culture of the time, not just with the music and dancing, but because you actually see a slice of life during that time period as the characters go through their lives and experience the difficulties of life in New York at that time. It is relatable beyond the iconic music that drives it forward. Saturday Night Fever is not just a dance and music spectacle; it's about these guys who go to the club to escape the trials and hardships of life, which is something everyone can relate to.

BWW: Any final thoughts?

Henningsen: We have an awesome cast and director, and it's a blast, so come out and see the show!

Put on your dancing shoes and come on out to Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre for Saturday Night Fever. Visit for show and ticket information.