REVIEW: “Saturday Night Fever” @ the Mac-Haydn [Berkshire on Stage]
Review by Roseann Cane
The 1977 film “Saturday Night Fever” was a smash hit. Based on a 1995 New York Magazine article, Nik Cohn’s “Tribal Rites of a Saturday Night” (which Cohn admitted years later to be fictional), the film propelled John Travolta into stardom and became the best-selling dance-centered movie of all time until 2010’s “Black Swan.”
Directed by John Badham with a screenplay by Norman Wexler, and music by the Bee Gees (one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time), it’s not difficult to understand the well-deserved success of the movie. The Bee Gees were commissioned by producer Robert Stigwood to write songs for the film. Not terribly well known at the time, the group created some of the songs during a single weekend and gathered some songs they’d already written to add to the mix. “Stayin’ Alive” had already been written, and was one of the first songs ready to be used in the film. “Stayin’ Alive” will undoubtedly be forever associated with the movie, in no small part thanks to the movie’s stunning opening sequencee.
The stage musical of Saturday Night Fever, with a book by Nan Knighton in collaboration with Arlene Phillips, Paul Nicholas and Robert Stigwood, and music by the Bee Gees, opened in London in 1998, and on Broadway the following year. It is now playing at Chatham’ Mac-Haydn Theatre, directed by John Saunders.
The show opens with “Stayin’ Alive,” too, and in this production, the number falls flat. While James Kinney usually does a superb job choreographing the excellent dancers who grace the Mac-Haydn’s round stage, in this attempt to recreate the busy thoroughfare (86th Street in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn), the chorus walks across the stage and back in “X” formation, bumping into each other (intentionally or accidentally, I couldn’t tell), and the effect is merely one of too many people crammed in too small a space. (Happily, Kinney more than redeems himself later.)