BWW Review: SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER at Westchester Broadway Theatre
First of all, I am a huge advocate of the Westchester Broadway Theatre and the variety of musicals that are staged there. The concept of "Dinner Theatre" is such a fun, lively experience and sitting sort of "in the round" while being served food and drinks is quite special. With that being said, Saturday Night Fever, the musical itself seemed a bit uneven with the transitions from dialogue to musical numbers. However, it was a fun trip down memory lane and I laud the production values and the performances of the hardworking talent of the cast.
When Saturday Night Fever premiered in 1976, the movie put John Travolta on the map as a screen presence with unbelievable charisma and dancing talent. There truly has not been another actor/dancer quite like him. The movie displayed a combination of John Travolta's signature dance moves, white disco suit and the Bee Gee's soundtrack which became the best-selling soundtrack of all time.
It certainly makes sense that producers would want to make a Broadway Musical out of this, seeing as the movie itself played out like one. In this particular production at Westchester Broadway Theatre, the stage was set to showcase Brooklyn in the 70's, using the various levels of the stage to convey "2001 Space Odyssey," the disco where Tony Mareno and his Brooklyn pals hung out, Tony's house where he lives with his parents and his younger sister, and the Brooklyn Bridge as a backdrop. Michael Bottari and Ronald Case make the transitions continuous with their creative and multi-leveled set design. Mr. Bottari and Mr. Case were the costume designers as well, and, they were outstanding, Hearkening back to the era of Bell Bottoms and Polyester, the costumes were mosT Lovingly designed.
Richard Stafford has directed and choreographed his actors with dedication to the era. The musical numbers are quite energetic and the dancing is impressive with high energy. I almost think the show did not need the actual story, but could just have had the musical numbers by themselves. The script is not strong enough to keep interest during the non-musical numbers. However, Andrew Gmoser's effective lighting design gave contrast to the dark scenes on the Brooklyn Bridge and to the bright popping scenes at the Odyssey.
Ryan Edward Wise strongly directed the singers who sounded effortless. The harmonies and vocal techniques made the Bee Gee's songs sound almost operatic. Stripping down the disco beats, songs like "If I Can't Have You" and "Tragedy" were sung with a "power ballad" style.
Jacob Tischler as Tony Manero played the role with heart and sang with impressive vocals. He was not merely a John Travolta impersonator. The dancing was acrobatic but Mr. Tischler was effortless in his execution. He also displayed wonderful chemistry with Alexandra Matteo, who played Stephanie Mangano. Both actors are true triple threats and their final dance number, complete with his white suit and her off the shoulder dress was visually and technically breathtaking.
Gianna Yanelli brought pathos to Annette, the young awkward woman who pines for Tony. Because this is a family-friendly show, some of the "R" rated aspects of her story with Tony were watered down.
Pat McRoberts and Michelle Dawson added some comic flair as the DJ and Candy, the club singer. They provided background singing in the dance numbers if "You Should be Dancing" and "Night Fever." The ensemble was cohesive and performed with enormous energy.
Ultimately, Saturday Night Fever is a lot of fun, regardless of the slow pace of the acting scenes. This is not the fault of the performers or the creative team, but I would have preferred the book to be stronger. In any case, the music, costumes, lighting, and staging make it an enjoyable night at the theater.
Saturday Night Fever plays through November 27 and then December 19 through January 29, 2017. Information and tickets at 914-592-2222 or broadwaytheatre.com.