Yes, I am talking about the show that made the world fell in love with John Travolta. No I’m not talking about Grease (at least not yet). And yes, I am talking about Pittsburgh Musical Theater’s newest and first production of its 2016 “Magnificent Movie Musical Season”—Saturday Night Fever.
NOT a jukebox musical, Saturday Night Fever will still bring back all the old times nostalgia with a touching story, while making you want to dance on your chair with that shinning disco ball. Based on the 1977 Paramount Film and adapted for the stage by Robert Stigwood and Bill Oaks, it depicts a journey of a Brooklyn young guy who’s trying to escape from his dead-end day life by dancing away with his love and struggles in the vibrant night scenes and disco clubs. Although many of the darker elements from the original film was cut to make it a more family-friendly show, the magic of the Bee Gees’ great hit songs didn’t lose a bit.
Leading the team is Mr. Anthony Crouchelli who played the charming Tony Manero with a mellow yet wholesome personality. Juggling his solo numbers at each Act with great energy and emotion, Mr. Crouchelli’s character ended up with an inspirational arc that will warm your heart after all. The source of his “fever” in the show, Stephanie Mangano, was played Ms. Larissa Overholt. Although the chemistry on stage didn’t come until later as it was in the story, every time she sings it’s a show-stopping moment that will make you realize this laser-sharp fast-paced girl truly has a strong yet tender side inside. Another great talent is Mr. Adam Fladd who played Tony’s younger sidekick Bobby C. The tragic trajectory of the character is predictable and over-foreshadowed, but the singing of Mr.Fladd still managed to set the scene for the drama at the end of the show.
Building upon the original songs from the movie, a few extra modern musical theater pop-feeling songs were also added in the production to fire up the disco dance soundtrack. Two of my favorite new additions include “100 Reasons”, a beautiful duet between Tony and Stephanie, and “Stuck”, a wonderful quartet that eventually developed into a group number. Overall the musicians in the orchestra and the actors on stage did a fairly good job of balancing the light excitement with the heavy dramatic ballad moments. However the balance of background music and in-scene dialogues somehow got lost in a rather distracting fight that we sometimes ended up not knowing which side should we listen to. But after all this is also a show about dancing, and after “re-living” the famous opening number “Staying Alive” and the energetic “Disco Inferno”, you will agree with me just that.
Saturday Night Fever is a story about fresh start. And Ms. Colleen Doyno’s direction is all about freshness for this aged show, if not too fresh that the focal point of the show is equally disturbed. The language of text will already make you gasp surprisingly and ask yourself, “Did he just call her that word?” But sometimes the choices of presentation on stage will push the limit even further by occasionally trying to explore the edges of between “necessary build-up for dramatic tension” and “melo-comedic moments that are just confusing and bad taste”. The coherence and momentum of the story unfortunately kept getting interrupted by long scene changes (with or without clothes).
The design team is easily the biggest highlight of the entire production. Ms. Kim Brown with Spotlight Costumes once again captured the diversity of the story and the essence of that generation by giving us another visual feast of sparkles and retro memories. Mr. Jonathan T. Sage’s scenery design followed the tradition of a PMT production–minimalist with a function-focused aesthetic. And finally, Mr. Todd Nonn’s gorgeous lighting will ignite all the sparks in the room and make you truly believe that “the sexiness of disco can always make a come-back anytime”.
So there you go. Another journey Pittsburgh Musical Theatre promises to take the audience on a diverging path. Whether you are a fan of the original movie, or have only heard about “Saturday Night Live”, there’s something for everyone in those classic 70’s boogie shoes.
I mean I’m no doctor. But when the “Saturday Night Fever” came in and hit you like the snowstorm that’s howling outside your window, just look in the mirror and tell yourself, “You should be dancing right now!”
Special thanks to Pittsburgh Musical Theater for complimentary press tickets. Saturday Night Fever runs through February 21st at the Byham Theater. For tickets and more information, check out their website here.