A Novice's Guide to Saturday Night Fever
Marking 40 years since its famous UK cinema release, Saturday Night Fever is re-imagined and revitalised in a big new music and dance spectacular.
Leading man, Tony Manero, the character originated by John Travolta in the film, is being played by Richard Winsor of Matthew Bourne's New Adventures and BBC Casualty. When asked about taking on the iconic role he said...
'John Travolta [is] a huge idol of mine. Watching him in Saturday Night Fever and Grease is probably one of the reasons why I started dancing and performing. The disco scenes, his solo, his very masculine energy, it inspired me. So getting the chance to play Tony Manero is a dream come true, a challenge as well. I want to draw from him, not imitate him. I've got so much to play off - the ways of standing, walking and dancing. But I have to play my own reality, otherwise it becomes contrived imitation.'
The 1977 film and now musical, follows Tony, an Italian-American teenager in Brooklyn who lives for his Saturday nights at the disco. He is seen as a kind of a King of the club for his sizzling dance moves, but outside this haven he faces several challenges from both his family and work. However, when he meets Stephanie his life seems to change as the pair start training for a dance competition at the club and he hope of moving to Manhattan just across the bridge. This narrative is based on a 1976 New York magazine article by British writer Nik Cohn, 'The Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night.'
For the first time ever Bill Kenwright's production includes actors playing the Bee Gees who sing all of the original band's hits, which are used in both the film and the show. But did you know the Bee Gees where never involved in the creation of the film? They were simply commissioned for songs after the film was decided upon and re-purposed some songs they had been working on whilst cranking out a few extra ones over a weekend. The band weren't particularly well known at this point.
From glimpsing at the choreography it is clear to see this production has all of the classic disco steps associated with the 70s era and the flashy dance floor, which of course we all expect, but did you know when the film was released it not only broke Box Office records, but it extended the life of disco for a few years? The trend was dying in popularity, but picked up once the film dropped. In the film some of the choreography, particularly the 'Tango Hussle' scene was made up by the actors without a choreographer present because they didn't show up. But even weirder than that the iconic white suit which you can see Richard donning above was supposed to be black! Black was on trend at the time, but designer Patrizia Von Brandenstein convinced them it should be white. This was first and foremost to symbolise the protagonist's journey to enlightenment but also for practicality as a black suit would blend into the discotheque. This original suit even sold for $2,000 followed later by a resale for $145,000, BLIMEY! We wonder if Bill Kenwright will be selling Richard Winsor's suit after the tour?
The film is famous for having very dark themes, however there was also a PG version of it released. As Richard states that there is a going back to these thematics, making for a more meaningful piece...
'...we are taking it back to that dark atmospheric setting. We're not shying away from that. It is still going to be a stage dance show, but we really are finding the realism in it. The sheer immediacy, energy and atmosphere you get from the stage adds to the experience. That coupled with beautifully sung live music and amazing choreography is fantastic. You get moved in a different way in the theatre. As an audience you witness something so present and real it hits you differently.'