A gritty disco show based on the legendary 1977 dance drama film Saturday Night Fever – with a soundtrack by The Bee Gees – is now jiving and disco dancing on the Birmingham stage.

Saturday Night Fever is heating up the stage at The Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham.

John Badham’s 1977 Hollywood film starring John Travolta was turned into a successful jukebox musical in 1998 by Nan Knighton, Robert Stigwood, Paul Nicholas and Arlene Phillips.

The legendary Hollywood film comes alive in a stunning stage versionPaul Coltas
The legendary Hollywood film comes alive in a stunning stage version

Producer Bill Kenwright’s dramatic show, which he also directs, follows the up and down life of Tony Manero, a blue-collar Italian-American growing up in the urban jungle of Brooklyn where poverty is always near and success is distant and elusive.

Tony dreams of escaping the tensions and daily arguments with his family by taking refuge in the sweltering nightclubs where he can dance away his pain and troubles by dancing – and romancing the girls – on Saturday nights.

The wayward and womanising Tony comes across an alluring and talented dancer named Stephanie on the dancefloor of one of the clubs he frequents and their shared passion for dance inspires them to enter a dance competition in the hope of breaking out of the dreariness and toil of the rat race.

The story uses music and dancing to open the heart of lovePaul Coltas
The story uses music and dancing to open the heart of love

This is an adult show and the material shines a spotlight on some of the seedier aspects of life  that were rife in the underbelly of New York in the late 1970’s.

Misogyny, racism, rape culture, harassment, drug abuse, suicide, and social unrest are just some of the horrors that bubble away under the umbrella of the core story of a young man in search of purpose, meaning, and redemption.

The show – which is suggested for those aged 14 and over – refrains from wallowing too deeply in society’s seedy murk, and keeps the balance focused on the hope and positivity that music and dance offers to people in dark times.

The themes and material of this dance drama compels the audience to see beyond the stage and reach out to each other – including family and friends – and listen to the pain being nursed in human hearts. Through listening, and understanding, there is a chance that we may offer each other healing and save those who are perched dangerously close to the edge of existence.

Despite the darkness, the show is a spellbinding blend of dance and music that engages and lights up the heart and mind and sprinkles glittering joy all over the audience.

The show is filled with highly charged performancesPaul Coltas
The show is filled with highly charged performances

The costume design by Gary McCann, including lighting by Nick Richings, are used in such a beautiful and evocative manner that the show transports the audience to the neon-drenched world of disco era dancefloors of 1970’s Brooklyn where glitter balls, spinning from the ceiling, dazzle over the sweating and starry-costumed dancers.

The West End show uses live musicians and singers to recreate the groundbreaking Bee Gees soundtrack which accompanied the original film. Drew Ferry (as Maurice), Oliver Thomson (as Robin) and Al Jenks (as Barry) are uncanny in their visual and vocal representation of the legendary Gibb brothers.

All of the multi-million selling songs from the Grammy award-winning soundtrack album launch the stage show into the musical stratosphere.

Songs such as Stayin’ Alive and Night Fever have the power to make the human spirit soar, while other tracks such as More than a Woman and How Deep is Your Love reach into the secret zones of the human soul and raise philosophical questions about the mystical grace and power of women and the light of love.

Jack Wilcox (Tony) is charismatic in the role played by John Travolta in the moviePaul Coltas
Jack Wilcox (Tony) is charismatic in the role played by John Travolta in the movie

The choreography by Bill Deamer is some sort of witchcraft because the show not only replicates the flow and moves of the legendary film but Deamer also embroiders a modern edge which brings the show dancing and jiving into the 21st century.

The sequence where Manero strips off his clothes and prepares to dress for his night out is choreographed in such a sensual and electrifying manner that it brought the audience to fever pitch anticipation.

Deamer must be commended for casting off the decades long shadow of Saturday Night Fever dance parodies across popular culture including comedy sketches, cartoon shows, and even advertisements.

The choreography in the stage show returns both the music and the incredible dance moves back to where they belong – at the heart of a dramatic story that uses performance art to throw light on the human soul.

Jack Wilcox (Tony) and Rebekah Bryant (Stephanie) invest depth and soul to their rolesPaul Coltas
Jack Wilcox (Tony) and Rebekah Bryant (Stephanie) invest depth and soul to their roles

Jack Wilcox is magnetic as Tony Manero and fills the shoes of the character which was so iconically portrayed by the Oscar-nominated John Travolta in the feverish film.

Wilcox uses comedy timing to sizzling effect in some of the scenes while injecting the darker moments with a sinister quality.

Wilcox also enjoys a truly pulsating chemistry with Rebekah Bryant who plays the part of the beautiful and resilient Stephanie.

Bryant is a strong performer and every aspect of Stephanie’s character is fuelled by scintillating passion. Her lithe and sexy dance movements, expressive vocal delivery, ethereal acting, and her exuberant and seductive stage presence, are dazzling.

The legendary choreography of the film is thrillingly replicated for the stagePaul Coltas
The legendary choreography of the film is thrillingly replicated for the stage

Special mention goes to Billie Hardy who plays the role of Annette who is tragically and heartlessly abandoned by Tony.

Hardy inhabits the character of Annette so vividly that she makes your heart ache with the loneliness and grief that she nurses and so when she sings If I Can’t Have You the song lyrics pierce right into the soul of the listener.

Hardy performs the soulful material with such emotional conviction that the every word of the song takes on a truly cosmic meaning with real depth. She makes the audience understand the poetry and sacrifice of what it means to have loved and lost.

This sensational Saturday Night Fever is a sizzling hot disco inferno.

VERDICT: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Saturday Night Fever is now running at The Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham until Saturday 26 November

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