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REVIEW: Saturday Night Fever at The Alexandra Theatre

Saturday Night Fever is a musical, based on Nik Cohn's 1975 New York Magazine article "Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night" and Norman Wexler's 1977 screenplay that it inspired.

The mention of the name connotes images of John Travolta, pointing to the sky in a white three piece suit and is almost as iconic as it was successful. Made on a tiny budget of $2.5 million, the film was a huge commercial success and spawned one of the most successful soundtracks ever recorded. 

The stage show follows a constricted version of the films storyline and focuses on Tony Manero, a kid from Brooklyn whose weekend is spent at the local discotheque. There he luxuriates in the admiration of the crowd and a growing relationship with Stephanie Mangano, and can temporarily forget the realities of his life, including a dead-end job in a paint store and his gang of deadbeat friends.

In an effort to make it a family-friendly show, many of the film's darker elements, including references to racial conflict, drug use, and violence, are eliminated from the plot and, indeed, this production of the show isn't 100% true to the original West End version either. However, let's be honest, a massive part of this piece is the music and the dancing - both of which are more than present from the moment the lights go down!

The staging is simple and slick with one pair of interlocking stairs forming the bulk of the set, however that simplicity aids scene changes and gives a podium for Edward Handoll, Alastair Hill and Matt Faull who take on the hair, gold shirts and high falsetto of the soundtrack with apparent ease. Becoming The BeeGees - one of the most famous groups of the 70s with one of the most distinctive sounds - isn't something to be sniffed at and this trio should be applauded for their brilliant efforts this evening.

In fact, whilst you can fill the auditorium with glitter balls and turn up the volume to the max, this show is nothing without a strong cast and our leading man, Richard Winsor, is testament to that. Best known to the audience for his time playing Cal Knight in Casualty, neither I, nor those around me, had any idea of his background. Over and above wearing scrubs on a Saturday night, WInsor is a trained dancer and has performed numerous times in productions for Sir Matthew Bourne around the world. 

From the moment he walked onto the stage at the start of the first number, Winsor had the audience in the palm of his hand. Technically, he was superb and from an entertainment point of view - even with the obvious comparisons to be drawn - he sustained his own version of Manero without straying into 'tribute' territory, which was appreciated by the audience.

Shows like this have the compulsory mega-mix at the end; a sure fire way to get a standing ovation at the very end of each performance. However, it should be noted that tonights ovation began before the first notes of that mega mix had been played. The applause was for a cast who worked so well with the piece they were given.

If I'm completely honest, I wasn't totally enamoured by the flow of the production. At times, it felt stunted and it was clear that the stage play misses elements of the original screen play which allow for that seamless transition. Whether that was to keep it brighter or to consolidate things into a shorter time frame, I don't know, however in parts you felt something was missing.

That said, this show is a classic, a fan favourite and a sing-a-long dream. Whatever draws you to glitter balls and flares, find it and grab your tickets! 

Saturday Night Fever runs at The Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 29th September 2018. For more information, or to get your tickets, head to atgtickets.com/birmingham.

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