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New Theatre, Oxford      

Saturday Night Fever
5.0Reviewer's rating

All that glitters is gold in the 1977 disco classic Saturday Night Fever reimagined for the stage by Bill Kenwright and starring Jack Wilcox and Rebekah Bryant in the leading roles

If Strictly season has you in a disco mood then this show is for you. The perfect antidote to the dropping temperatures, this production, glitter balls and all, brings much needed sparkle and will be sure to have you out of your seat before the curtain drops.

It’s impossible not to mention the original soundtrack of the film which takes centre stage and is brought to life by the superb Drew Ferry, AJ Jenks,and Oliver Thomson as the Bee Gees. Neither the falsettos nor the hair styling failed to pay fitting tribute to the iconic Gibb brothers. In fact, the entire production from the live band to the choreography and costumes was a joyous celebration of the 1970s disco scene.

One hit after another from “Staying Alive” to “You Should Be Dancing” and “More Than A Woman” anchored the fast moving and well-directed storyline of Tony Manero’s struggle to reconcile his passion for dance with his family situation and the violence of Brooklyn gangs in the 1970s. While there were many uplifting dance numbers, notably the recreation of the 2001 Odyssey dance competition, this adaptation was not afraid to tussle with the darker themes of the original story. Some of the tougher issues of prejudice, sexual assault, misogyny, and the weight of social, religious, and cultural expectations were confidently handled by the talented cast. A standout example of this range and sensitivity could be found in Harry Goodson-Bevan making his professional debut as Bobbie C. The day after World Mental Health Day, his story felt particularly poignant as the young man feels the burden of his girlfriend’s unplanned pregnancy and struggles to find help and to cope with the machismo of the company he keeps. Though the darker themes often sit in sharp contrast with the upbeat disco soundtrack, Goodson-Bevan’s rendition of “Tragedy” was exemplary for surprising and impressing the audience with the emotional intensity and depth he brought to such a well-known anthem.

Another special mention is due to the charismatic Faizal Jaye returning to the role of DJ Monty who brought the house down with Disco Inferno.

Much like their flares, this talented cast formed a tight company ably led by Jack Wilcox and Rebekah Bryant. While it’s impossible not to make comparisons with John Travolta’s original performance, Wilcox has his own style and confidently commanded the dancefloor whether preening at home in *that* white suit or strutting his stuff. The two actors brought chemistry to all their scenes together and in particular to their dance studio rehearsals.

Saturday Night Fever runs from until Saturday 15th October at the New Theatre and is on tour. It may come somewhere near you soon. Buy your ticket today – you should be dancing!

  • Musical
  • Produced and Directed by Bill Kenwright
  • Adaptation by Robert Stigwood
  • Cast includes: Jack Wilcox, Rebekah Bryant, Drew Ferry, Oliver Thomson, A J Jenks, Harry Goodson-Bevan
  • New Theatre, Oxford      
  • Until: 15 October and then touring

About The Author

Reviewer (UK)

Canadian-born Mel Cooper first came to the UK to study English Literature at Oxford University and stayed. He was captivated by the culture and history of Britain, which he found to be a welcoming and tolerant country. After working in highly illustrated, non-fiction publishing for over a decade, he founded and edited the magazine Opera Now. Since then he has worked as a consultant to the Japanese broadcaster NHK, a broadcaster on British Satellite Broadcasting, a maker of audio shows and arts critic for several airlines, and as one of the team that started Britain’s first commercial classical music radio station, Classic FM, on which he was both a classical music DJ and creator and presenter of shows like Classic America and Authentic Performance. Throughout this period, he also lectured in music and literature in London and Oxford and published short stories in Canada. After working with the Genesis Foundation on helping to fund arts projects, he continues to write, review and lecture on music and literature. His first novel has just been published as an e-book. The title is City of Dreams. It is the first volume of a projected saga called The Dream Bearers. You can find the Kindle version of the book on Amazon.

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