note: entire contents copyright 2015 by Sheila Barth
The Ogunquit Playhouse is renowned for producing superlative productions, with celebrity stars, musicians, and staff, for the past 82 years.
While last Wednesday’s matinee theatergoers enjoyed “Saturday Night Fever’s” nostalgia and its BeeGees’ all-time hit tunes, (“Stayin’ Alive,” “More than a Woman,” “How Deep is Your Love,” and the show’s theme song), the show fell short of my expectations.
This new adaptation of the musical that opened on Broadway in 1999 has added three new songs, but its fire and fury are diminished here.
Granted, it’s tough to fill John Travolta’s shoes in his 1977 hit movie role of Tony Manero. He’s a 1970‘s, 19-year-old, Brooklyn weekend star-disco dancer --- with a dead-end job, depressingly critical parents, and an attitude.
Tony has reason for escaping into and excelling in his neighborhood disco haven. His embittered dad, Frank Sr., (Joe Gately), has been unemployed for seven months, after working in construction for 25 years. His mother, Flo, (former Rockette Joyce Nolen), has praise only her older son, Frank Jr., because he’s studying for the priesthood. Little sister Linda’s okay, though.
Tony got a raise at the hardware store, and he’s the dancing idol at Brooklyn Bay Ridge dance club, but his parents continually suppress him.
Tony’s pals, Joey (Corey Mosello), Double J (Michael Siktberg), Gus (Michael Carrasco), and Bobby C (Jeremy Greenbaum), are losers, too, who admire and follow Tony as their leader. The guys and Annette (Haley Hannah), Tony’s former dance partner who’s crazy about him, and the energetic ensemble have all the right moves. Also, Hannah delivers a touching version of “If I Can’t Have You”.
Bobby, who idolizes Tony, has a serious problem, though, especially with his girlfriend, Pauline (Jillian Butterfield). He’s “Stuck,” he sings in a four-way harmony with Tony, Stephanie and Pauline.
Unfortunately, Luke Hamilton as Tony lacks the acting and dancing chops here. He’s more of a caricature than a character. Even his sexy swagger and romantic scenes with co-star Jenny Florkowski, (portraying Tony’s new love and dance partner, Stephanie), lack chemistry.
Music director Sonny Paladino and the orchestra provide rocking accompaniment, especially to crowd-pleasing vocalist Amma Osei portraying disco singer, Candy, and in ensemble numbers. Justin Colombo in dual roles, portraying DJ-club host, Monty and storeowner Mr. Fusco, is outlandish, like the real record spinners were back then, while Brandyn Fay portraying Tony’s older brother, Frank Jr., is too mild.
Richard Latta’s swirling disco balls, vivid lighting and dramatic effects, along with Alex Huerta’s sound effects and Richard J. Hinds’ choreography are praiseworthy, but Ogunquit favorite designer Adam Koch’s set is an ugly amalgam of large corrugated steel, huge lighting grids, movable panels and huge mirrors. Yeah, we know this is supposed to be the seamy side of Brooklyn in the depressed, troubled 1970s, but the set is crowded and clunky.
Exiting, senior theatergoers happily chatted away, grooving to the beat after a rip-roaring, in-the-aisles Megamix finale. I wished the entire show had been as lively.
BOX INFO: Two-act musical, appearing through Oct. 25, at Ogunquit Playhouse, 10 Main St., Route 1,Ogunquit, Maine. Tickets start at $44. Call 207-646-5511 or visit www.ogunquitplayhouse.org.