Review: 'Saturday Night Fever' at Westchester Broadway Theatre
Nancy Sasso Janis
- Connecticut Critic
- Connecticut Critic Circle
‘Saturday Night Fever’ retains its interest after 40 years for its power as a coming-of-age tale about growing beyond given circumstances and finding your place.” - Pia Haas for WBT
It was my teenaged son with the old soul that insisted we make the drive to Elmsford NY once again to experience the Westchester Broadway Theatre’s production of ‘Saturday Night Fever The Musical.’ The show that marks their 198th production opened on Sept. 15 and will run through Nov. 17; after a break for the Christmas show, it will return on Dec. 29 and run through Jan. 29 of next year.
There are hip-huggers and platform shoes and amazing disco dance moves that never stop in this stage version of the 1977 blockbuster Paramount/RSO film starring John Travolta as Tony Manero, a Brooklyn man whose ordinary life is transformed when he steps on the dance floor of the local disco. It is bound together with over 20 hits from the legendary Bee Gees such as “Jive Talking,” “You Should be Dancing,” “How Deep is Your Love,” and of course “Stayin’ Alive.” Some of the film’s darker elements were eliminated from the official version of the musical in an effort to make it more family friendly.
Richard Stafford directed the WBT production and also created the outstanding choreography that this show demands. He staged this piece to encompass both the stairs and aisles of this three-sided dinner theatre stage and the result is that a good section of the audiences feels like they are part of the New York neighborhood. This worked especially well in this production and kudos to the actors for working around the few patrons who failed to heed the host’s fervent requests to stay in their seats during the performance.
Jacob Tischler turned in a strong performance as the Italian-American in the trademark white suit. I had forgotten that it was a gift from his revered brother Frank Jr. (played well by Frankie Paparone) who is about the leave the priesthood, much to the dismay of his parents, who were played with a strong dose of Italian authenticity by Sandy Rosenberg and Ray DeMattis. Isabella D’Erasmo and Hannah Moore share the role of the teenaged Linda Manero.
Raynor Rubel (Gus,) Joe Moeller (Double J,) Christopher Hlinka (Joey,) and Chris Collins-Pisano (Bobby) played Tony’s neighborhood deadbeat buddies. Audrey Tesserot was memorable as Bobby’s girl Pauline and Gianna Yanelli was Tony’s former dance partner/girlfriend Annette.
Alexandra Matteo was a convincing Stephanie Mangano; a strong dancer and lovely singer, she maintained her regional accent throughout her many musical numbers. Another standout was the talented Michelle Dawson (Nancy in ‘Oliver!’ at WBT) in the role of disco singer Candy and Pat McRoberts at the DJ Monty.
In the ensemble were Audrey Tesserot, Kristyn Pope, Natalie Perez-Duel, Walter Filmore IV, Christopher DeAngelis, Lauren Dalal, Josh Bates, and Anthony Avino. Fine dancers each and every one, and they all got to wear some serious seventies gear.
The six musicians in the offstage pit covered the hits of the Bee Gees and the other musical numbers well; Ryan Edwards Wise is the musical director. While I enjoyed the Bee Gees dance numbers, my favorite song of the night was “100 Reasons.” Beautiful and flashy lighting was designed by Andrew Gmoser and the fine set designed by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case featured a bridge across the NY skyline. The same pair designed and executed the abundant seventies costumes with Gerald Kelly in charge of the flattering wigs.
On the menu for the evening performance was Chicken Florentine, along with the usual delicious selections. The signature drink was called ‘The Odyssey,’ after the name of the disco.
Coming up in the new season at WBT is ‘The Bikinis,’ ‘Mamma Mia,’ ‘Annie (back at WBT after a 34 year wait) and ‘Annie Get Your Gun.’