Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Ivoryton Playhouse’s summer musical is “Saturday Night Fever” based on Nik Cohn’s 1975 New York Magazine article
“Tribal Rituals for the New Saturday Night” and Norman Wexler’s 1977 screenplay it inspired. The stage version premiered in the West End back in 1998 at the London Palladium and then at the Minskoff Theatre October 21, 1999, playing 27 previews and 501 performances before closing on December 30, 2000. Put on your “Boogie Shoes” as we go back in time to 1979 that will leave you with “Night Fever!”
It tells the story of Tony Manero, a humble paint store clerk by day who transforms into a polyester-clad stallion king of disco by night. Every Saturday night Tony slips into his flares, pulls on his ludicrously large-collared shirt and hits the streets to strut his stuff. However when the club lights come on and Tony and his friends emerge into daylight, things are never as simple as they seem. When he meets Stephanie, who also dreams of a world beyond Brooklyn, they decide to train together for a dance competition and their lives begin to change forever. “Saturday Night Fever” combines scintillating expert disco choreography by Todd Underwood combined with the best selling soundtrack by the Bee Gees. Todd who is also the director casts this high energy musical with stunning and awe inspiring music direction by Mike Morris. Their combined expertise combined with Todd’s sensational dance numbers produce a musical that audiences can savor and thoroughly enjoy. The infectious music will leave you dancing in the aisles and have you standing up cheering the cast at the curtain call on a job very well done.
Todd recently directed and choreographed the very successful “West Side Story” here last month. Martin Marchitto designed the impressive set for the show while Lisa Bebey designed the wild and wacky 1970’s disco style costumes. The cast delivers marvelous dancing and singing of this score. The most potent acting scenes occur between Tony and the characters in Act 2 when a tragedy occurs to wake Tony up to what is really important in his life. This is where the heart of this musical is found. Michael Notardonato is spectacular as this iconic character, Tony Manero. He is tall, dark and handsome and is a triple threat performer who is destined for stardom once he reaches Broadway. His impressive voice soars in all his numbers with the show stopping one “Stayin’ Alive” which left the audience cheering for more. Michael’s other numbers include “Boogie Shoes”, “Top of Your Game” which was written for the stage show as well as the fantastic quartet “Stuck” (Tony, Bobby, Stephanie and Pauline) and the emotion packed duets “100 Reasons” and “How Deep is Your Love” duets with Stephanie. I last reviewed Michael as Danny in “Grease” last year at Festival Theatre but it is almost as if this role had been written specifically for him from the get go. Bravo! Gorgeous, statuesque blonde, Caroline Lellouche plays the unsympathetic character of Stephanie. She wants to get ahead in the world of dance and wants to use Tony to achieve her goal. Caroline’s dancing with Michael is excellent and her voice is splendid in “What Kind of Fool?”, her big solo number. In this rewritten second act, Stephanie is humanized from the original hard hearted version of the character.They have a lot of chemistry together in their song and dance numbers, too.
One of the best performers in this show is Pierre Marais as Bobby. His sympathetic portrayal as this underdog character resonates with the audience from start to finish of the show. Pierre delivers a gut wrenching performance as this tragic character. He does an impressive song and dance which brings down the house in the number “Jive Talking” with Pauline played wonderfully by Sarah Mae Banning and also performs another dance number to “Dog Eat Dog” with his friends, Joey, Gus and Double-J. Another standout is Nora Fox as Annette who tugs at your heartstrings when something traumatic occurs. She also displays her beautiful voice in “If I Can’t Have You” which leaves the audience in tears. I last reviewed Nora and Caroline in “Chicago” last year at Ivoryton Playhouse. Ashley Jeudy also stops the show with her powerful voice in “Disco Inferno”, “Night Fever”, “Open Sesame”, “More Than a Woman” and “Nights on Broadway.”
The Manero family members are played by Rick Malone as the father, Tina Falivene as the mother, Amanda Lupacchino as the sister and Alec Bandzes as the sympathetic priest brother. He buys Tony his iconic white jacket for the dance competition. He gives the show the dramatic edge it needs with Michael in Act 2. The excellent Latin dancers who win the contest trophy when Tony concedes to them are played by Christian Alvarez and Arianne Meneses. They stop the show with their incredible dance moves. So for a high energy musical that will make you want to sing and dance all night long in the aisles, be sure to catch “Saturday Night Fever” at the historic Ivoryton Playhouse. Tell them this Tony sent you to see Tony Manero and company before they dance out of town.
SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (9 August to 3 September)
Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT
1(860)76-7318 or www.ivorytonplayhouse.org