Saturday Night Fever – New Wimbledon Theatre until 8th September then Touring
Review by Caroline Hanks-Farmer
I adored the iconic 1978 film Saturday Night Fever, and its subsequent stage show adaptations. So I was really looking forward to seeing this new touring production. Unfortunately though it felt more-like hypothermia than a fever.
I’m a positive reviewer, everyone that is familiar with my site will know that, but even I have struggled to find the positives here. Maybe it was first night nerves, but the whole cast looked awkward on occasion. Technical issues must be to blame for the lateness of the curtain rising and the opening number with its vibrant colours and staging looked promising, but both my hope and enthusiasm rapidly evaporated.
One of my major gripes was the singing accompaniment provided by the Bee Gees trio. Sure the likeness and the sound was great. But it was more the fact that when a couple of the cast did sing, we couldn’t hear them, overpowered by both the band (who were terrific I might add) and the Bee Gees trio.
At times the set also let it down with mis-timed backdrops making an appearance, wobbling and posters falling. This must have affected the cast, not least it’s leading actor Richard Winsor who looked uncomfortable for most of the evening. The arrogance and confidence required to play self-assured Tony simply wasn’t evident. He appeared to be constantly looking at other cast members for either reassurance or direction specifically when leading the dance numbers. It made for uncomfortable viewing and distinctly detracted from my enjoyment.
In the smaller numbers with his leading lady Kate Parr he seemed to relax more which made the dances flow much better. Parr’s dancing was delicate and exquisite. The costumes were perfectly in keeping with the era. However due to the aforementioned issues, the hard-hitting scene which should, if done well, have the audience stunned to silence, simply didn’t. It meant that the relevance of such a poignant scene almost went unnoticed. The pace lacked at times and the much-needed musical respite, with revolving glitter balls, didn’t make up for all the other disappointments.
What should be a dazzling, if possibly dated, show was disappointing on so many levels. I believe it does have a saving grace in that this is the first date in the tour. I’d like to think it was just a major case of nerves, which will leave in time and be replaced by the charismatic self-confidence that this show needs. I would love to see it later in its journey and my expectation is that it will be a very different story. That said the audience jumped to their feet in appreciation at the end and the music really does make you smile in delight. So maybe go with that thought in mind and just enjoy a retro evening’s entertainment.