Boogie Fever Arrives for Opening Night of Saturday Night Fever The Musical
Lyric Theatre, Sydney, Tuesday April 2nd
Reviewed by Chris Duncan with contributions
SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER is certainly getting Sydney ‘Jive Talkin’ and putting on their ‘Boogie Shoes’ with sensational dance numbers set to an iconic musical backdrop which celebrates everything 70s from the Bee Gees‘ brilliant soundtrack as well as many more disco favourites.
The choreography and vocal talent are arguably the major successes of this stage production. Standout vocals from Paulini, Bobby Fox and Natalie Conway leave the audience awestruck at the pristine quality of their talent and delivery. The dance ensemble is comprised of some Australia’s hardest working and best dancers. All numbers are incredibly high-energy and breathtaking with choreography by Malik Le Nost (aided by Mitchell Woodcock) that captures the disco era in all its dazzling, over-the-top energy and glory.
The cast also includes the best dancers working in Australia today: Justin Anderson, Giuliana Carniato, Lachlan Dearing, Lauren Elton, Mitchell Fistrovic, Gaynor Hicks, Elysha Manik, Kiara McGowan, Coby Njoroge, Maddie Peat, Stephen Perez, Erica Stubbs, Lola Thompson, Benjamin Turland and Chris Van Doren. [Read our previous article on the Cast Announcement here.]
Often large dance ensembles have weak links ⏤ dancers slightly out of sync, who don’t kick quite as high, or who don’t bring consistent energy ⏤ but this production is different. EVERY dancer is nailing the re-imagined choreography with the same energy and precision. And it is pure delight to witness it onstage!
Bonnie Lythgoe (So You Think You Can Dance – Producer) was at the opening night and felt the need to ‘speak from the heart’ about the standard of the dance cast: “I saw Saturday Night Fever at the opening night back in 1999 at the London Palladium, and what I felt in comparison was that, although I loved it back then, when I saw the Sydney opening I was overwhelmed and could not believe the brilliant choreography and the standard of the dancers … they didn’t stop dancing from beginning to end and every movement was there … not one of them ever dropped their energy and they were absolutely ‘on’ the entire show. Although they were still doing the 70s style they had a 2019 edge to it and the dancers were way, way, way superior to what I saw in 1999 in London … this is really a DANCER’S show!”
Unfortunately, much like the movie, the storyline is lacking in this tale so it is quite fair to say that the quality and execution of the choreography by the dancers and brilliant vocals is what truly carries the joy of this production. The characters and narrative are saved only by the brilliance of the cast. Euan Doidge plays Tony Manero with plenty of ‘grunt’ and Melanie Hawkins pulls off flawless dance routines as dance partner Stephanie. Tim ‘Timomatic’ Omaji plays a convincing role as animated DJ Monty, and what would the show be without our own Australian disco diva Marcia Hines who makes a guest appearance as local diva Estella.
The set is largely built on LED screens which effectively transport us to downtown Brooklyn, New York. Animated lighting design and a sensory overload of disco balls adds to the 70s ‘feel’ of the production.
The plot follows Tony who works for the weekend, living to enter dance competitions with pretty girls and hanging out with his friends. After ditching wannabe girlfriend Annette (Angelique Cassimatis) in favour of seasoned dancer Stephanie, they chase a $500 disco competition prize. When they win, Tony knows they were out-danced by a Puerto Rican couple and hands over the trophy and cash prize.
Unfortunately, some of the original film’s denigrating attitude towards women is still present despite being played down. Howecver, this is fiction set in the seventies. Denise Drysdale and Mark Mitchell play Tony’s parents in pre-filmed scenes which comes across a little awkwardly – especially with waning Brooklyn accents from both seasoned actors which border on being cringe-worthy.
Despite the storyline flaws, dance-lovers will be captivated by this production. Audience member Tayla Slender sums it up beautifully with her comment: “The dancing was phenomenal … such amazing choreographic choices that were unique and unexpected, but blew us away!”
Saturday Night Fever will play an exclusive Australian season from March 27 2019.
SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER
Sydney Lyric Theatre, The Star
From 27 March 2019
Bookings: ticketmaster.com.au or 1300 795 267 / Groups 12+ call 1300 889 278