|Saturday Night Fever opened
this week and joined the ranks of the new wave
of musicals, not written by Lord Andrew and Sir Tim, that
is sweeping the West End.
Marking the 21st Anniversary of the 1977 smash hit film this production has enough glitter balls, lights and streams of dry-ice to keep even the most disco thirsty punters happy. The vast Palladium stage is frequently transformed into the 2001 Odyssey disco - complete with an illuminated, multi-colour, flashing dance floor and huge mirrors that make the stage seem even bigger than it already is. £4 million has been spent on this stage musical and clearly no expense has been spared on set design.
A plentiful supply of dancers, too, are ever present - dressed up in appropriately groovy attire and eager to boogie on down to the sounds of the Bee Gees.
However, do not go to Saturday Night Fever expecting a Gibb brothers revival concert or to find the gritty, sleazy elements of the original film. The Bee Gees have their songs sung, but there is no escaping that this remains a true West End musical. This is a slick show where a disco beat meets a string ensemble, where 70s funk meets the 90s stage orchestra and where disco dancers meet the Tap Dogs.
Adam Garcia plays the lead role of Tony Manero - the king of the dancefloor on Saturday nights but otherwise a lowly shopworker who hangs around with his mates and lives at home with his parents. The girls all lust after him, but he only has eyes for the girl he cant have. They become dancing partners for a disco dancing competition staged by 2001 - it does not take a literary genius to predict the outcome. All a bit of a silly narrative which is very similar to that of the film. In fact this is a film played on stage- using the same material but presenting it through a different medium and removing most of the hard-hitting punches.
This is Garcias first starring West End role. He plays Tony adequately and undoubtedly looks the part. Young, dashingly handsome, and with enough pectoral muscles to get the audience screaming in lust whenever his shirt is removed. His singing talent, however, does not nearly match his skills on the dancefloor. Garcias big solo number, Immortality (one of two new songs written by the Bee Gees for this production), was not as tight as the rest of the show or, indeed, as the trousers he wares whilst on display.
Starring opposite Garcia is Anita Louise Combe as Stephanie Mangano and Simon Greiff, fresh out of drama school, as Bobby C. Both are excellent in their parts, and have vocal talents that embarrassingly overshadow those of the lead. They both play contrasting stereotypes - one a manipulative woman who likes to think of herself as superior to everyone else and the other a shy geek, rather less brash than his friends, who feels he has no one to talk to - and both are cast well.
But to who does this show really appeal? On the evening we attended the audience largely consisted of people aged between thirty-five and forty. It was those that were first on their feet clapping and dancing vigorously to the finalé. Those good ol days are back and for one evening only, the audience can be young again. Admittedly, I too was raised to my feet - largely because of the pressure applied by the surrounding people - and joined in the frivolities.
However, The producers were correct to cast hear-throb Garcia as the lead to entice the younger, girly crowd - who will also buy the posters, mugs, sound-tracks, key-rings, caps and t-shirts as a result. Girl groupies aside, it will be interesting to see how long this show runs once all those that were the party animals of 1977 have seen the show.
As entertaining as the show is, there is a finite supply of thirty-nine year olds to buy tickets. The hour glass has already turned.
Saturday Night Fever is showing at the London Palladium. Box office: 0171 494 5020. Student concessions are not yet available.
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