Oxford life. Thirtysomething challenges. Music leanings. Anything really.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Saturday Night Fever

I just went to see Saturday Night Fever at the New Theatre in Oxford. Brilliant. Below are the rather more than 20 words I've written for the Daily Information. Maybe I'm not cynical enough, but some of the other reviews I have found, like this one at the Independent, think it's rubbish. More fool them, it was FUN, goddammit.

I swear that all the male audience members, old and young, were strutting as they left the theatre. Did I even see someone, old enough to know better, thrust their finger in the air, hips pushed outwards?

Thus ended Saturday Night Fever, the musical production of the classic film. Whether it was a nostalgia trip for those of us old enough to have been wannabe disco divas the first time around or for the younger generation for whom disco must be a wonderful hoot, this show is a winner.

Translating a film to a musical is a challenge, but fortunately producer Robert Stigwood hasn’t messed with what is one of the greatest film opening sequences: Tony Manero, young and cocky, swaggering down the street, relishing the attention he gets, to the bassline of “Staying Alive”. This morphs into an ensemble dance that starts us off perfectly.

The plot, for those who don’t know, revolves around Tony Manero, a young Catholic Brooklyn man, working in a paint shop, who lives for dancing. Two weeks hence is a big dance competition, and Tony must find a partner with whom to defend his title. Will it be his old partner, Annette, or new-girl-on-the-block Stephanie, beautiful, but an outsider to Tony’s group, and above his station in life?

The plot really isn’t the point; it’s the dancing and the songs. Sean Mulligan is excellent as Manero. He has the swagger and the cockiness necessary for this part, and he’s a great dancer. The supporting cast are all excellent, but special mention must go to Matthew Cutts’ over-the-top performance as Monty, Odyssey’s DJ. The part is a gift for its chance to camp up the seventies style, and be comically non-PC.

All the songs you want to hear, Staying Alive, Night Fiver, More Than A Woman, etc, get the musical treatment. Tragedy is excellently performed in a touching, slower period as Joey struggles with his emotional problems.

When we finally get to the dance competition, everyone’s ready for a big performance, and the show is stolen by Cuban dance pair Maria and Cesar. This is worth the ticket alone – it beats anything you’ll have seen on Strictly Come Dancing.

The finale that follows is pretty long, but is a fever-pitch bunch of dances that has everyone in the audience up and dancing. It’s sure not high-brow theatre, but it is

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