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`Saturday Night Fever’
There is no inoculation for "Saturday Night
The only thing that can alleviate the burning desire to return to
the disco scene of the ’70s, or cure those who still get the shakes
thinking of John Travolta undulating in that white suit, is to rent
the movie again or go to this Broadway show.
Setting the scene for that "Disco Inferno" called "2001"
was easy. And except for the sound level, hearing those great songs
by the Bee Gees — "Stayin’ Alive," "If I Can’t Have
"More Than A Woman," "Disco Duck," and "How Deep
is Your Love" — should make you feel alive and ready to disco.
It’s the second option that poses a small problem, no Travolta.
James Carpinello, who plays the Travolta role of disco-fevered Tony
Manero, is trim, can sing and act okay, and has the cool/hot attitude
of a dance-crazed Romeo down pat. That he is a little on the short
side (at least, most of the male dancers appear to tower over him),
only makes us more aware of the more charismatic dancers and better
dancing going on around him.
No, Carpinello, who scored off-Broadway last season in "Stupid
Kids," isn’t a world-class dancer, but you could argue that Tony
isn’t supposed to be as spectacular a dancer as the others. This is
made clear in the final dance competition. This doesn’t compensate
for the less than dynamic impression Carpinello gives gyrating around
the Bay Ridge neighborhood and rehearsing at the Dale dance studio.
I’d like to bet that whoever the producers get to replace Carpinello
somewhere down the line will be a better candidate to emulate
a consideration that appears to be the main objective, however
That doesn’t mean that Carpinello isn’t working his erogenous zones
to generate sparks and a personable front. As the ambitious and cocky
Brooklyn youth that dreams of making it big in that other borough
called Manhattan, Carpinello preens and affects the familiar Travolta
attitudes, poses, and postures. Except for the protruding head mike
(unattractively displayed on all the performers) that makes him, in
particular, look like an invading Martian, Carpinello goes through
the obligatory Travolta-like motions like a pro. He and his co-star
Paige Price, who plays Stephanie, the self-educating young woman who
has managed to get herself out of Brooklyn, have their work cut out
for them keeping us involved in their relationship that follows the
same course taken in the film.
Unlike the dramatic film in which the Bee Gees’ songs
served only as a background score and for the dancing, the show’s
adapters Nan Knighton, in collaboration with Arlene Phillips (who
also directed and choreographed), have the characters sing the
songs, none of which were written to be used as narrative drive.
the apparent success of "Footloose" (less tolerable both
and dramatically), "Saturday Night Fever" at least has a
story to tell.
In fairness, it offers a realistic, if glossy, depiction of a time
and a place. It’s too bad that it has also been conceived as a giant
budget-be-damned industrial show. The sound of the music from the
pit is the pits. In this not so golden age of amplification, the
shrill, skimpy, blaring, and unnatural noise that passes for
accompaniment is the production’s disgrace, as well as a humiliation
of the musicians of Union Local 802. I’m surprised that the union
has never called a strike against the audio engineers at the Minskoff.
The excellent scenic designs here by Robin Wagner have more dimension
than the characters, and offer thrills and excitement on their own.
The Verrazano Narrows Bridge on a Saturday night, replete with an
illusion of moving traffic, makes its awesome appearance, and provides
a recurring landscape for scaling, dancing and, of course, the tragic
death of the pathetic and disconsolate Bobby C., played like a lost
soul appropriately by Paul Castree).
Another lost loser is Orfeh, the one-name singer who plays Annette,
the one-girl groupie with only two thoughts in her head, to dance
with Tony and get laid by Tony. Orfeh, a rather good singer, does
get her chance to give even the hearing-impaired their money’s worth
with, "If I Can’t Have You." Almost more electric than Andrew
Bridge’s lighting is the eccentric performance of Bryan Batt, as the
shamelessly sleazy dance promoter and studio instructor. His
contains the edge of parody that is lurking in the commercial heart
of "Saturday Night Fever." HH
— Simon Saltzman
Street, New York. $30 to $80. Ticketmaster, 800-755-4000 or
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