Review: Saturday Night Fever Struts Into The West End
Looking around the West End, it's easy to think we're living in a winter of much content.
Starry productions like Cabaret are doing very well and there is no shortage of beloved films being pumped out as musical extravaganzas for all ages, like Frozen, Moulin Rouge! and Dirty Dancing.
Into that crowded fray comes Saturday Night Fever with Richard Winsor in the role made famous in 1977 by John Travolta; a cast of superb dancers — plus a record-breaking soundtrack (only The Bodyguard has sold more) containing boogie-inducing hits Jive Talking, Disco Inferno, More Than A Woman, You Should Be Dancing and Staying Alive.
Paint shop assistant by day and disco dancer by night, Tony Manero and his buddies meet up at local nightspot 2001 Odyssey where they chat up girls, bemoan their lot and — in Tony's case — command the dancefloor. When the club announces a competition, Tony sees his way up and out of a life he wants to leave behind.
To director Bill Kenwright's credit, the plot here doesn’t pull any of the original punches. The casual misogyny is still present — for example when Tony tells an admirer that she can be "a nice girl or a bitch" — as well as the harrowing rape and suicide scenes. There are f-bombs aplenty and Winsor isn't averse to stripping off down to his briefs (for story-related reasons, obviously).
The combination of full-throttle megahits from a live band and three Bee Gee-like singers and the high-energy set pieces make this often highly enjoyable viewing. Having said that, the action doesn't always flow smoothly, the dance moves become repetitive towards the end and the dips in tempo can be frustrating. For a show that almost completely revolves around Manero, Winsor doesn't quite have the charisma and acting chops to pull this gig off throughout. Still, his bravura and physicality (as well as those of his high-kicking costar Olivia Fines as Stephanie) are to be commended.
Saturday Night Fever, Peacock Theatre, from £18, until 26 March
Last Updated 18 February 2022