5 Reasons Why Saturday Night Fever is Sizzling
By: Iris Wiener
July 23, 2019: It’s a rare treat when a musical is successfully adapted from a film; John W. Engeman Theater’s Saturday Night Fever features enough intoxicating energy and bursting pizzazz that it doesn’t matter if Robert Stigwood’s adaptation is somewhat weak in story. Based on the 1977 blockbuster film, the show transports audiences back to the 1970s with as much glimmer and shine as the disco ball at the forefront of the stage. Featuring music by the Bee Gees, Fever is the story of Tony, a streetwise kid from Brooklyn who attempts to escape his dead-end life through dancing. Here are five reasons why the best treat you can give yourself this summer is a stop at Long Island’s theatrical mainstay:
1. The atmosphere. The John W. Engeman Theater goes all out when it comes to creating atmosphere. Expect to enter a lobby to the sounds of “Car Wash” and “That’s the Way (I Like It). The mood is perfectly complemented with specialty cocktails, including Stephanie’s Tequila Sunrise and 2001’s Salty Dog (named after the lead’s love interest and 2001 Odyssey, the club at which much of the musical is set, respectively). Plus, there’s the aforementioned disco ball that reinforces the message that you will “Get Down Tonight.”
2. Michael Notardonato. Forget John Travolta. Michael Notardonatowill be the name on everyone’s lips after taking in this treat. His Tony Manero is as smooth a dancer as he is adorably comical. Tony may be looking for love while he tries to find himself, but Notardonato is clearly a performer who is as solid as Tony’s multi-layered hairspray. His Brooklyn strut is epic, and when he enters clad in the film’s iconic white suit, it’s immediately clear that his delivery of the choreography in “More Than a Woman” will be melting hearts. One character describes his performance best when she says: “It was so hot, it was cruel.”
3. The costumes. That white suit is only one of many pieces of eye candy in this spectacularly colorful collection of 70s wear. Bellbottoms, leather jackets, opens shirts, jumpsuits and color-blocking were all the rage, and the onslaught of retro-costumes here are integral to the tone and especially fun to witness. Michael Bottari and Ronald Case’s commendable design feels like a character in and of itself. The designers even demonstrated flair and creativity when they coordinated a costume change for the entire cast simply for the grand finale.
4. The choreography. Whether Tony is effortlessly swinging Stephanie across the dance floor or he’s at the forefront of a dozen dancers seemingly moving as one organism to “Night Fever,” the ingenious Breton Tyner-Bryan’s choreography showcases some of the hardest working performers in New York. Their impeccable timing (and sexy pelvic thrusts) in “Disco Inferno” is musical theater at its finest. The disco numbers and fancy footwork are reminders as to why everyone should be hustling down to the theater.
5. The music. It’s entertaining (if not always effective) to enjoy familiar hits while witnessing the challenge that comes with using pre-existing lyrics to tell a story. Regardless of the script’s lack of meaningful characterization and plot design, the Bee Gees’ songs withhold the test of time and flourish at the hands of the performers in Fever. If audiences don’t know “100 Reasons” before enjoying the show, they will not forget the haunting take on it here. The second act opens with “Nights On Broadway,” a rousing rendition that dares its audience to remember that they are not actually on Broadway. It’s because of shows like this that the Bee Gees and 70s music are “Stayin’ Alive.”
Saturday Night Fever The Musical
John W Engeman Theater
250 Main Street
Northport, NY 11768
Box Office: 631-261-2900
July 11, 2019 – August 25, 2019
Photography: Michael DeCristofaro