By Patricia-Ann Young
It’s back to basics for Ryan McBryde’s jukebox musical, a new take on movie classic Saturday Night Fever. Jettisoning the previously family friendly stage adaption, this new version revisits the darker and grittier themes of the 1977 film.
“It’s still a story about boy meets girl, but it’s so much more than that,” says Danny Bayne, leading up the cast as Tony Manero, a role once immortalised by John Travolta, “it’s the best of both worlds,” he adds, “the best of musical theatre and the best of drama or a play.”
The adaption takes a closer look at the life of a blue-collar Brooklyn boy, his friends and his family in the late 70s. What we see is the seedy underbelly of the American dream, a crappy hangover from fuel shortages, recessions and unemployment. “The 70s was a bad time for America,” Llandyll Gove, who plays Manero’s best friend Double J, adds, “disco was quite a dark scene, it’s a very dark story.” Both actors did a lot of research into the lives of working class men in the 70s, and both bristle with barely repressed rage and strutting masculinity in their performances.
In fact, all of the performers are spot on, and the musical numbers are big, bolshy and angry. Bayne mentions his favourite in the show is You Should be Dancing, a jazzy Bee Gee’s song rearranged as a mad and frenzied finale for the first half, “It’s a big angry dance number,” he says “all screaming, shouting, and dancing- I love it!”
Therein lies the greatest strength of the production; it perfectly captures the frustration and rage of living a life outside your control. Occasionally the tonal shift between drama and musical do clash (a serious sexual assault is forgotten uncomfortably quickly for an other dance number), still, if you like your dance numbers with a bite, get on down to Saturday Night Fever.
Theatre Royal Glasgow, until 3rd January (not 25th)