Saturday Night Fever Ignites A Disco Inferno with Evocative Choreography
By Keith Spencer with Photos by Paul Lyden for NSMT
BEVERLY – Saturday Night Fever The Musical made its New England premiere at Bill Hanney’s North Shore Music Theatre this week with a cast that included a casanova, some cool cats, and a bevy of bitch’n chicks who could really get down and boogie.
The newly rewritten musical features nearly all of your favorite songs from The Bee Gees and the classic 1970’s film that included “Disco Inferno”, “Boogie Shoes”, and “Stayin’ Alive”, a song that continues to define that decade to this day. Producers worked directly with the new writers to help form a show that Hanney hopes has a long life as an upcoming national tour and Broadway revival.
Norman Wexler’s original film is based on Nik Cohn’s 1975 New York Magazine article “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night”. It tells the story of streetwise, Brooklyn-bred Tony who is looking to escape his life through dancing at the disco after dropping out. With a father out of a job and a golden-boy brother leaving the priesthood, Tony and his generation are tackling issues of economics, race, and sexual promiscuity, so don’t expect the feel-good musical of last season’s August show, Grease.
The highlight of NSMT’s production could be found in its evocative choreography and costumes that captured the trends of the time which have largely become classics thanks to the monumental success of the original film.
Nick Kenkel’s choreography captured the essence of Saturday Night Fever by offering a balance of the retro, period-style dance at the heart of the story with evocative, modern touches, bringing cast members blazin’ across the theatre in the round and taking their game to the max. The mastermind is no stranger to NSMT after directing and choreographing Dreamgirls and last season’s Chicago. He boasts a big resume that includes previous and current work on Broadway as well as choreography for commercials, recording artists, and a stage show in Las Vegas.
Costume designer Paula Peasley-Ninestein recreated many of the fashions not to be forgotten in the four decades since the original film, which of course included Tony’s signature white leisure suit. In its first appearance onstage, the costume actually received a rousing applause from the audience as it was revealed at the start of the second act. Scenic designer Michael P. Kramer should also be commended for his team’s work on recreating the Verrazano Bridge and other elements used to morph the stage into an assortment of settings.
The cast was led by Sam Wolf who took on a role made iconic by John Travolta. Wolf’s acting and dancing skills were certainly on par with his contemporaries onstage and previous NSMT performers, however, his vocals didn’t necessarily live up to expectations when compared with cast mates or the unparalleled Bee Gees. It is not a reason to totally write-off his performance or the production in general as it features the stunning Tessa Grady who stars opposite Wolf as his love interest and dance partner, Stephanie Mangano.
Other several other standout performances included Matthew Rodin who stuttered his way into our hearts as Tony’s nervous best friend Bobby. His strongest performance came during “Stuck” when he joined Audrey Tesserot who plays his pregnant girlfriend Pauline alongside Wolf and Grady. Rodin is the creator and host of a web series on BroadwayWorld.com, and was also recently featured on the North Shore Music Theatre YouTube channel with a behind-the-scenes look at the production.
Haley Swindal also shined as Candy whose rendition of “Nights on Broadway” was perhaps the best vocal performance of the evening. Alongside the DJ character Monty, Candy also offered moments of humor among intense exchanges and elaborate dance numbers that clearly become the main attraction as events progress.
The characters’ final convergence on the 2001 Odyssey Nightclub for a Saturday night dance contest was undoubtedly the pinnacle of the production with three couples offering assorted performances. Andres Acosta and Michelle Marmolejo brought a a Latin flavor during their number for “Salsation” that Wolf’s character ultimately recognized as a better performance despite his first-place finish with Grady for “More Than A Woman”. If it was up to us, our vote would have gone to Jovan Dansberry and NaTonia Monet who nailed their energized routine in “Open Sesame”.
Following the finale, theatregoers left with a real feel for the funk, fun, and deliberations that made the film and this musical adaptation an iconic representation of the decade. Saturday Night Fever The Musical runs at North Shore Music Theatre through August 23, and we hope you’ll do us a solid and get to this groovy production. Can you dig it?
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.nsmt.org.
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When? August 11 through August 23, 2015 with performances Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30PM, Friday & Saturday at 8PM, and matinees on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2PM.
Where? The North Shore Music Theatre, 62 Dunham Road, Beverly, MA
Cost? Tickets for Saturday Night Fever are priced from $54 – $79
For tickets and information, call (978) 232-7200 or visit www.nsmt.org.
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Photos © Paul Lyden & North Shore Music Theatre. All Rights Reserved. Do not crop, edit, or reproduce image without expressed, written permission.
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The cast of Saturday Night Fever: The Musical will be led by Sam Wolf playing the iconic 1977 film role of Tony Manero made famous by John Travolta. The show also features Tessa Grady (Stephanie Mangano), James LaRosa (Gus), Pat McRoberts (Monty), Joe Moeller (Double J), Matthew Rodin (Bobby C), Haley Swindal (Candy), Cary Tedder (Joey, u/s Tony), and Kirstin Tucker (Annette).
The 23 member cast also includes Andres Acosta (Gabriel), Sissy Bell (Doreen), Christopher DeAngelis (Mr. Fusco, Jay), Jovan Dansberry, Ray DeMattis (Frank Manero), Briana Fallon (Connie), Tripp Hampton, Scarlett Keene-Connole, Michelle Marmolejo, NaTonia Monet, Bronson Norris Murphy (Frank Jr.), Ellen Peterson (Flo Manero), Gabriella Sorrentino, and Audrey Tesserot (Pauline).
Saturday Night Fever: The Musical will be directed by Richard Stafford and choreographed by Nick Kenkel. The creative team also includes Milton Granger (Music Direction), Michael P. Kramer (Scenic Design), Paula Peasley-Ninestein (Costume Designer), Kirk Bookman (Lighting Design), Leon Rothenberg (Sound Design), Gerard Kelly (Wig Design), John Godbout (Production Stage Manager), Rachel Policare (Assistant Stage Manager), Joseph Mohan (Assistant Music Director), and Binder Casting (Casting).
Saturday Night Fever: The Musical is produced for North Shore Music Theatre by Bill Hanney (Owner/Producer), Kevin P. Hill (Artistic Director), and Tom Amos (Associate Producer).
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The 2015 Musical Season continues with Billy Elliot The Musical (September 29 – October 11), Sister Act (November 3 – 15), and concludes with 25th Annual Production of A Christmas Carol (December 4 – 23), starring David Coffee as Ebenezer Scrooge.
The 2015 Concert Series includes On The Magic Carpet with Barbara Eden (August 28 at 7:30pm), Linda Eder (August 29 at 8pm), and Harvey Robbins’ Royalty of Rock ‘n’ Roll (August 30 at 2pm) and Doo-Wopp Hall of Fame (October 18 at 2pm).
The 2015 Summer Fairytale Musical Series continues with Pinocchio (July 31) and Sleeping Beauty (August 21). Performances are Fridays at 10AM and 1PM. All tickets are $12. All shows are presented by Kaleidoscope Children’s Theatre.
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Since 1955, NSMT has become one of the most attended theatres in New England, with approximately 250,000 patrons annually. With a national and regional reputation for artistic achievement, NSMT has received numerous industry awards including Elliot Norton Awards, IRNE Awards, the Rosetta Le Noire Award from Actors’ Equity, and the Moss Hart Award. NSMT produced the World Premiere of Memphis in 2003, the show went on to win four 2010 Tony Awards including Best Musical. Under the new ownership of Bill Hanney in 2010, NSMT continues to annually produce a musical subscription series and an annual production of A Christmas Carol along with celebrity concerts and children’s programming.
For tickets and information call (978) 232-7200 or visit www.nsmt.org.