Entertainment » Theatre

Saturday Night Fever

by Will Demers
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Aug 19, 2019
ollier Cobb and Schyler Conaway in "Saturday Night Fever" at Theater By The Sea through Sept. 9. (Steven Richards Photography).
ollier Cobb and Schyler Conaway in "Saturday Night Fever" at Theater By The Sea through Sept. 9. (Steven Richards Photography).  

Once again an iconic film from a certain period gets the musical treatment. A 1975 New York Magazine article "Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night" was the jumping-off point for a screenplay about a 19-year old Brooklyn guy who tears up the dance floor every Saturday night, but has little going on for him outside of that. He lives at home, hasn't any college plans or even a decent job.

"Saturday Night Fever" was a 1977 surprise hit starring John Travolta as Tony Manero, a womanizing, amateur dancing, paint store employee who enters a dance contest at a local disco. The film was truly a phenomenon at the time; it made a star out of Travolta and featured a best selling soundtrack with most of the music by the Bee Gees. Disco was the hot musical trend at the time and Theatre By The Sea tries its hand at replicating the moment in history when we had no cell phones, Internet or social media.

Manero is portrayed by Schyler Conaway, who looks amazing and has the strut, but overreaches a bit with his Brooklyn accent. Thankfully he can dance. The object of his affection and woman he wants to win that contest with is Stephanie Mangano (Melissa Rapelje), who is better at the accent and produces a solid performance. The supporting cast fares better. Bobby C (Sam Brackley) is great as a troubled youth and Alexa Shanahan, as his girlfriend, Pauline throws herself into the part with both feet. And Tony's ex- Annette (Collier Cobb) is fairly decent as the girl still obsessed with him. The costumes are pretty spot-on (special mention to David Costa-Cabral), and Kyle Dixon's sets are always something to behold.

Trouble is, the show tries too hard to replicate the movie. Turning disco songs into ballads doesn't really hit the mark, and "If I Can't Have You" hardly makes for an impassioned showstopper. As a whole, the show lacks energy. The film had an upbeat style despite its depressing subject matter. The main protagonist isn't really a nice guy at all, and I feel as though we're supposed to like him for his dancing abilities, certainly not the fact that he and his friends objectify women. Boy, the 1970s were noticeably politically incorrect; and also a decade when people dressed badly and women seemed to only want to get a boyfriend.

Ending a fairly strong season, TBTS gives us a bit of a downer here; the show could have been so much better. Perhaps the adaptation is somewhat to blame, making it difficult to bring audiences back to that time and keep the momentum going for an hour and a half. This cast seems to really be trying; it's just missing the mark.

"Saturday Night Fever" is running through September 9th at Theatre By The Sea 364 Cards Pond Road, Wakefield, RI 02879. For information or tickets call 401-782-3800 or visit www.theatrebythesea.com


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