REVIEW: Saturday Night Fever

APOLLO 15/7/04

WHICH bright spark came up with the idea of slotting Barry from Eastenders into a skin-tight disco romper suit, tossing him a false perm and giving him carte blanche to sidle across the Apollo’s stage bellowing Disco Inferno?

It’s worrying that somebody somewhere came up with this chilling thought in the first place but even more disturbing that others have picked up the blueprint and run with it with enough enthusiasm to make this glitterball Frankenstein a hideous reality.

Barry – the actor’s name is Shaun Williamson but he will always be Barry to me – wallows in the role of DJ Monty in this tired stage attempt at the hit John Travolta film Saturday Night Fever – the rest of us are left wishing an old colleague, like a Mitchell brother or some other Albert Square hardman, would come along and biff him one to put us out of our misery. It’s a low point in a show of several misfiring moments.

Lead Stephane Anelli as Tony Manero – the paint-shop assistant cum disco hellraiser who everybody inexplicably calls “Tow-nee” – is a great mover but an average singer.

Sadly, it’s the same for the rest of the cast: fantastic dancers but run-of-the-mill singers.

None of the cast can reach the high notes – set impossibly high by original soundtrackers, The Bee Gees – and so tunes like Stayin’ Alive and Night Fever collapse into a mess of frustrated shouting, ruining the splendid choreography.

It all means Kym Marsh, once of pop flops Hear’Say, outdoes the boys with a couple of worthy take-notice moments, including a knockout version of Nights Over Broadway. But the show always seems half-baked. The plot fails to keep pace with the film.

This is understandable considering the movie’s darker moments but if distracting sub-plots, such as Tow-nee’s brother grappling with religion, can’t be wrapped up efficiently then you wonder why they are started in the first place.

By the closing scenes, you don’t know which love interest you are supposed to be rooting for, who the bad guys are and who are the good and what Tow-nee really wants from the exercise. Past caring, you are then hit with the sucker punch of Barry’s end-of-show sing-a-long. Others threw in the towel and were up dancing, but I refused to budge.

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