A delightful, bare-bones staging of the classic film/stage dance musical.
By Joel Benjamin
The “54 Sings” series at 54 Below is the perfect way to take some backward glances at Broadway musicals. They’ve re-visited big hits such as Mame, Woman of the Year, Applause, The Wiz and 1776. The Saturday Night Fever Cast Reunion was given the elegant 54 Below treatment, hosted by T. Oliver Reid. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear this earthy, foot tapping, hip popping musical performed by members of the original Broadway cast as well as some extremely talented young performers.
The bare-bones, 65-minute version concentrated on the songs with just enough dialog to hold the plot together. Hearing the immensely popular song list, mostly composed by the BeeGees (exceptions noted) was a hoot in itself. The rather naïve plot frankly doesn’t hold up so well, but the music, from “Stayin’ Alive” to “How Deep Is Your Love” certainly does.
On this occasion a dance floor was carved out so that several dance numbers could be performed. Some audience members also took advantage of this revisit to the disco era ironically taking place below one of the world’s most famous discos!
The storyline is well known. Tony and his Brooklyn buddies hang out together, playing macho challenge games and dancing at the local disco. Annette wants Tony and hangs out around him, only to face rejection. Tony aligns himself with the upwardly mobile Stephanie who works in Manhattan, the mysterious kingdom across the East River. Tony’s exasperating home life and his obsession with his looks, clothing and dancing are touched upon, as well as the dead-end lives of his uneducated friends, male and female.
Original Broadway cast members James Carpinello (Tony), Paige Price (Stephanie), Paul Castree (the doomed Bobby) and Orfeh (Annette) were doubled up by Corey Mach (Tony), Shannon O’Boyle (Stephanie), Matthew Rodin (Bobby), James LaRosa (Gus), Cary Tedder (Joey), Joe Boeller (Double J), Madeline Apple (Annette), Ray DeMattis (Frank) as well as Natalie Weiss (1st Act Candy) & Jay Ellis (1st Act Monty) and Haley Swindal (2nd Act Candy) & Pat McRoberts (2nd Act Monty) plus dancers Michelle Marmolejo & Nick Kenkel who made the most of the limited dance floor in the climactic “Salsation” (David Shire).
They all sang the incredible lineup of songs with style and passion. It was great to hear “Boogie Shoes” & “Disco Inferno” (both by Leroy Green & Ron Kersey), “You Should Be Dancing” and “More Than A Woman.” Orfeh mined “If I Can’t Have You” for all its sadness while James Carpinello and Paige Price ended the show with a joyous “How Deep Is Your Love” as their characters, Tony & Stephanie made amends.
The terrific band was led by Milton Granger on piano with Barbara Merjan on drums, Saadi Zain on bass, Eric B. Davis on guitar and Joseph Mohan on keyboard. They really understood this music.
Saturday Night Fever Cast Reunion – August 31, 2015
54 Below 254 West 54th Street between 8th Avenue & Broadway New York, NY
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