Saturday Night Fever, Wales Millennium Centre

I have to confess that I have never seen the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever (Star Wars was my passion that year). My knowledge of it was confined to the chart-topping songs of the Bee Gees and clips of John Travolta dancing in THAT suit. My desire to see this stage version (Wales Millennium Centre 27 November – 1 December) was entirely motivated by the prospect of experiencing uplifting music and dance. I was curious to see what the drama of the story would be, and found myself in an adult and often uncomfortable world of sexual, racial, religious and class politics. There was also a lot of swearing (I wondered how parents with children in the audience felt about this). By the end of Act One I was not convinced by the drama; Tony’s difficult relationships with women, his family and his friends lacked emotional impact. Whether this was intentional or accidental I am unsure, but Act Two was a different world, with the several storylines paying off and making a real impression, culminating in Tony’s agonised night following the death of a friend.

Judging by audience reaction, a further draw of the production is the casting of Richard Winsor as Tony. Richard is probably best known for his role as Caleb in the long-running BBC medical drama Casualty, now produced in Cardiff, round the corner from the WMC. However, he is not just an actor but a highly experienced dancer, being a veteran of many a Matthew Bourne production, memorably taking the lead in Dorian Gray. He had the audience eating out of his hand, especially when he slowly changed into THAT suit. His dancing is indeed wonderful, but he is expertly supported by the large cast. Standing out from the crowd was Owen Broughton, who played Tony’s friend Gus.

Some of the cast also had solo songs. Raphael Pace as the tortured Bobbie C made a particular impression performing Tragedy, a song not included in the film but fitting the character’s narrative perfectly. The singing really belonged to the three Bee Gees lookalikes and sound-alikes (Edward Handoll as Barry, Alastair Hill as Maurice, and Matt Faull as Robin), placed above the stage on a gantry and backed by a live band. In the end it really is the music and dancing that makes this show a hit; by the end the audience were up on their feet singing and clapping along to the medley of hits. This somewhat jars with the dark and sadly still relevant social issues within the story. Ultimately this production is a perfect night out for the Strictly Come Dancing generation.

 

Until December 1

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