The so-called Disco Era of the 1970s hardly qualifies as an era having only lasted about five years, but the soundtrack of those years – Saturday Night Fever – is timeless. You probably have one of the 40 million copies of that vinyl album somewhere in your storage unit. I don’t want to know if you still have the bell-bottoms and platform shoes, but if you do, you will want to drag them out because Riverside Theatre has a torrid case of Saturday Night Fever and you’ll want to catch it. On second thought, put those bell-bottoms back into storage. But don’t miss the show at Riverside!
Based on a 1975 New York Magazine article, “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night,” the 1977 movie was a major hit and the 1999 musical theater adaptation of Saturday Night Fever ran on Broadway for 500 performances long after the disco fad had faded. However, then as now, the music and story are timeless.
The main character, Tony Manero, was played in the film by John Travolta and handled superbly onstage by Jacob Tischler in this Riverside production. Tony works in a hardware store and lives for the weekends when he can strut his stuff on the 2001 Odyssey Disco dance floor. He gets no emotional support or encouragement from his parents, who idolize his priest brother. His loser friends idolize him, including a wannabe girlfriend and dance partner, Annette (Nicole Colón). When Tony sets his sights on first place in a dance contest, a $1,000 grand prize and maybe a life, he spurns Annette in favor of a new girl, the relatively classier Stephanie Mangano (Alexandra Matteo).
The movie cemented stardom for John Travolta, who was already famous from the TV show, Welcome Back Kotter. The movie’s soundtrack did the same for the BeeGees, who wrote and recorded many of the iconic songs (“Stayin’ Alive,” “How Deep is Your Love,” More Than a Woman,” among others). The stage production, even without Travolta or the BeeGees performing their songs, is well deserving of praise.
The cast, especially lead characters sing with great verve and passion. The Riverside musicians perform admirably as always. Although the plot revolves around a dance contest, dancing is not limited to Brooklyn’s 2001 Odyssey Disco. In fact, it isn’t even limited to the show itself, with an energetic full cast encore after the bows were taken.
The stage crew, which included performers, maintained a dizzying pace as they assembled and disassembled the show’s 24 scene changes. (My favorite was the White Castle storefront, which left my taste buds crying for one of their burger-in-a-box sliders.)
Saturday Night Fever performs April 11 – 30, 2017 on the Stark Stage at Riverside Theatre. Tickets start at $35. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Box Office at 772-231-6990 or online at http://www.riversidetheatre.com.