Review: ‘Saturday Night Fever’ at Westchester Broadway Theatre

Published: Friday, September 23, 2016 By: Lori Speiser Source: DC Metro Theatre Arts

Saturday Night Fever: The Musical, directed by Richard Stafford, is currently playing at Westchester Broadway Theatre. The musical is based on the well-known 1977 Paramount/RSO film starring John Travolta, and adapted for the stage by Robert Stigwood in collaboration with Bill Oaks for the London theater and then adapted by Sean Cercone and David Abbinanti for the American stage. The book was written by Nan Knighton with music by The Bee Gees.

Interestingly, the movie was based on a New York Magazine article written by Nik Cohn called Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night, which described the lives of a group of working-class Italian-Americans in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn in 1976, who lived for their nights when they danced at a local disco called 2001 Odyssey.

The musical takes place during a time when the America was still reeling from the defeat in Vietnam and Watergate, the Son of Sam was on the prowl, and the county was reeling from a gas crisis and the worst economic depression in 40 years. The movie inspired people all over the country and the disco life, white suits, and platform shoes flourished, and brought happiness and self-confidence to these young men had who had unemployed fathers, and had dead-end jobs themselves.

Throughout the musical we watch 19-year-old Tony Manero (Jacob Tischler) from Brooklyn struggle, mature and grow. He has a group of good friends that include Bobby C (Chris Collins-Pisano), Joey (Christopher Hlinka), Double J (Joe Moeller), and Gus (Raynor Rubel), and Tony is admired by many for his disco dancing. His home life, however, is very unhappy and he feels like the black sheep of his family. When he meets talented dancer Stephanie Mangano (Alexandra Matteo), they decide to enter a dance competition together. Little does he know that this will mark a changing point in his life.

Jacob Tishler did an excellent job as Tony. He made the part his own and his talent was evident whether acting, energetic dancing, or singing. He conveyed Tony’s emotions with animated body language, facial expressions, and tone and just oozed attitude. His performance of “Tragedy” was outstanding.

Alexandra Matteo was wonderful as Stephanie, a young woman wanting so badly to better herself. Her rendition of “What Kind of Fool” was powerful and emotional. Gianna Yanelli portrayed Annette, a girl obsessively in love with Tony. She has a standout moment with a stirring performance of “If I Can’t Have You.”

Audrey Tesserot as Pauline, Bobby C.’s girlfriend, used her high, sweet, clear voice effectively as she sang “How Deep is Your Love” in a duet with Chris Collins-Pisano. Pat McRoberts did a great job as Monty the DJ adding humor and using his smooth singing voice. It was a treat to hear Michelle Dawson as Candy the club singer use her powerful voice throughout the evening.

Along with the fantastic ensemble, the show is supported with delightful costumes by Michael Bottari and Ronald Case. For those of you old enough, the bell bottom pants, platform shoes and the busy polyester shirts will really take you back. The women’s clothing was also time appropriate with some beautiful outfits for Stephanie.

Bottari and Case also designed the impressive two-tiered set. There were many smaller easily moving sets, but the highlights were the bridge with the city lights in the background and the light panels on the walls and the floor in the disco which changed colors, provided by Lighting Designer Andrew Moser. It looked awesome and helped set the mood along with the huge silver Mylar curtain in the background.

The well-known and beloved Bee Gees music was superbly performed by the orchestra under the direction of Ryan Edward Wise.

While the story itself is not all happiness, the performances are impressive, especially the high energy, high kicking dancing! The large Ensemble dances in “Boogie Shoes,” “Disco Inferno,” and “You Should Be Dancing” showcase some of the exceptional and creative choreography by Director Richard Stafford. The dances during some of the scene changes were an extra added pleasure.

Don’t miss The Westchester Broadway Theatre’s exuberant Saturday Night Fever: The Musical. Go see it and catch the “Night Fever.”