Saturday Night Fever

Saturday Night Fever (Theatre Royal, Brighton)

I had a really bad cold and a high temperature last weekend and was quite feverish, so it was a really funny coincidence that only days later I should have gone to see Saturday Night Fever.

Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother or whether you’re a pensioner or whether you’re a llama, I’m sure you’d enjoy this exciting production based on the film, which provided the disco soundtrack to the 70s although Shake Your Groove Thing by Peaches and Herb isn’t in it.

The play is one of those musicals where everyone sings quite a lot, but it’s not quite like Mamma Mia, where the songs are all by Abba. In Saturday Night Fever everyone has to sing really high because the music is by the Bee Gees. I imagine this means the male members of the cast have to wear tight trousers or something, because most of them did indeed manage to sing quite high when necessary.

It’s quite a dark production, and by that I don’t mean the lights went out as they did when I went to see Black Coffee starring Robert Powell (who played Jesus on TV), but I mean it was quite depressing because all the youths were hanging about being lazy and swearing on the streets, petrol was really expensive and everyone shopped in paint stores.

In a way the plot was more important than the songs, though when the characters got lost for words they just sang a Bee Gees song, even if it wasn’t from the film, so things got a bit confusing, especially if, like me, you had memorised the soundtrack album.  

As I looked through the programme I couldn’t help but notice that none of the cast had apparently ever been in Emmerdale, The Bill or Casualty, which I find a bit hard to believe, so perhaps they were just too embarrassed to admit it.

Danny Bayne (who shot to fame after winning the TV series How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?) plays John Travolta and he’s really convincing. I got quite a shock when he took all his clothes off and was just standing on stage in his underpants – so shocked was I that I nearly dropped my binoculars. The pants were quite tight and I realised this must have been symbolising the lengths performers have to go to to be able to hit the high notes in songs by the Bee Gees.

Naomi Slights (which is an anagram of I Signal Moths) plays Stephanie, who tempts John Travolta to dance with her by gyrating suggestively.

The choreography by Andrew Wright (who I seem to remember choreographed a show at Chichester the other year – was it The Cherry Orchard or Kiss me Quick?) was really exciting. My heart nearly stopped when one male dancer did a somersault  centre stage, which isn’t easy from a standing position as I tried it when I was in Asda the other day and nearly came a cropper in the washing powder and detergents aisle.

Not only do the cast have to act, dance and sing but they also have to play instruments, which is quite clever though it can be offputting. I got the second shock of the evening when one of the blokes whipped his trumpet out. I was sorry nobody played the xylophone because that can be quite a nice instrument especially when played by someone like Evelyn Glennie or Patrick Moore, though I doubt either of them would have appeared in Saturday Night Fever.

All in all, it’s not really the sort of musical I like – I much prefer something starring Alfie Boe with a beard or even Lulu – but it was still very good and even I was dancing about in the aisles during all the great songs, until asked to sit down and wait until the final disco medley.

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