Westchester Broadway Theatre’s SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER Has All the Right Moves
By Mary Keon
Jacob Tischler rocks the role of Tony Manero in the Westchester Broadway Theatre production of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER. The musical, adapted for the stage by Robert Stigwood in collaboration with the Bill Oaks North American version, was written by Sean Cercone & David Abbinanti , based upon the Paramount/RSO film, with music and lyrics by the Bee Gees. The film, in turn, was inspired by Nik Cohn’s 1976 New York Magazine article, Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night.
Cohn’s story defined a generation in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn where working class men and women momentarily forgot the drabness of their daily lives on Saturday Night, under the glamour of the spinning disco ball and pulsing lights; searching for romance as they danced to the beat of the Bee Gees.
The play is set in July 1977 when Son of Sam was terrorizing Brooklyn. Tony and his friends, –aimless neighborhood toughs with dead-end jobs, hang out on the Verrazano-Narrows bridge in their spare time, trying hard to evade wanna-be girlfriends with marriage on their minds and occasionally getting mixed up in fights with rival gangs.
Tony is the black sheep in the family. His unemployed construction-worker father (Ray DeMattis) does not understand why Tony can’t find a job that pays a living wage and the family idolizes his brother, Frank Jr. (Frankie Paparone), the priest, until he unexpectedly leaves the priesthood. In a sub-plot, Bobby C. (Chris Collins-Pisano) keeps avoiding Pauline (Audrey Tessarot), who has loved him forever and has something important to tell him.
Though his life is going nowhere fast, Tony is the King of the dance floor on Saturday night and every girl wants to dance with him. Annette (Gianna Yanelli) stalks Tony everywhere but her grand plan to win his affection is ruined when Tony manages to attract the attention of the aloof Stephanie Mangano (Alexandra Matteo), who studies ballet, and he ends up partnering with her, instead of Annette, for a competition.
The set in this production, designed by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case, who also do the costumes, takes on a persona of its own, making good use of the three-quarter thrust stage. A silhouette of the Manhattan skyline, in silver paint on a dark blue backdrop, sets a glittering scene behind the catwalk that seamlessly transforms from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to a platform for disco singers Candy (Michelle Dawson) and DJ Monty (Pat McRoberts), aided by Andrew Gmoser’s nuanced lighting. A curtain of metallic streamers floats in to set the disco scenes while a mid-stage round set pops up as needed for the Manaro family kitchen with Tony’s bedroom above it. Additional set changes re-create street scenes, the dance studio and Stephanie’s apartment.
All of the principle actors execute their roles very well with notable performances from Tischler, McRoberts, Hlinka, Matteo, Yanelli, Tesserot and Dawson (Dulcinea in WBT’s MAN OF LA MANCHA), who are exceptional. Tischler, Matteo and Yanelli command the stage in their dance scenes while the ensemble cast also delivers a great deal of energy and enthusiasm, contributing greatly to the success of the overall production. (I suspect that many of my fellow audience members would have loved to join the cast on the disco floor and had a hard time remaining seated!)
The show features many of the Bee Gee’s most famous hits, including Stayin Alive, How Deep is Your Love, Night Fever, More Than a Woman, Jive Talkin’, You Should Be Dancing, If I Can’t Have You, Nights on Broadway, Tragedy and What Kind of Fool.
The show is well directed and choreographed by Richard Stafford. Sarah Busciano is the Assistant Choreographer. Every song is carefully delivered under the guidance of Musical Director Ryan Edward Weiss and this is an outstanding production.
The show runs now through November 27, 2016 and December 29, 2016 - January 29, 2017. WBT’s holiday program, A CHRISTMAS INN, is onstage December 1-23, 2016. For further information, visit the website: www.BroadwayTheatre.com