It is sometimes difficult to do the ratings on a production, trying to balance the production, the talent, and the play itself. Tonight was one of those nights. Drury Lane Oakbrook, one of my favorite venues for musical theater, opened their latest production, "Saturday Night Fever". Many of us recall the movie upon which this based on. It featured John Travolta and the glorious music of The Bee Gees. It is a story about a Brooklyn kid, who during the "disco" era found dancing to be his escape from the life that was placed before him. He has his "gang" of guys, his typical Italian Catholic mother who loves her family and her church, and is blessed because her oldest son is a Priest. The patriarch of the family is a blue color worker who survives, day-to-day. Tony, our hero (the part that Travolta made famous, or perhaps infamous) is played in this production by local actor Adrian Aguilar, who is worth the price of the ticket to see in this role. He may not have the best vocal range in town, but dancing-wise he is sensational, and acting-wise, I feel a Jeff Nominee is in the wings.
His buddies are played by Nick Cosgrove, Brandon Springman, Joe Capstick, Will Lidke and Brandon Springman. They look like they fit right into Brooklyn, circa 1970's. The women in Tony's life are Annette (Landree Fleming) who wants to dance with and be loved by Tony and Stephanie (deftly handled by Erica Stephan, who can really dance), the older and possibly more mature newcomer who gets Tony's attention. The ensemble is energetic to say the least, with most of them being on the stage for the majority of the two plus hours of story-telling.
Directed and choreographed by Dan Knechtges, this is a rewrite of the original production that came through town many years ago as part of the Broadway In Chicago series. I was not impressed with that show, and to be honest, never thought we would see its return. Well, Sean Cercone and David Abbinanti did a rewrite and gave it a little better flavor. The problem with the movie being made into a "musical" is that there is no way to truly utilize the music that made the original the icon it has become. The music of The Bee Gees was an important part of the movie and its success. "Night Fever", "Stayin' Alive", "Jive Talkin'" and a host of other memorable tunes made this what it was. The great range of The Bee Gees made the sounds unique and special. In this production, Candy (Alex Newell) and disc jockey ,Monty (Jhardn Dishon Milton) are used to handle some of the music that would have been done off camera by The Bee Gees. They were solid, but, again, the movie was a hit mainly because of the style and sound of The Bee Gees- they just cannot duplicate this!
The musical direction by the always reliable Roberta Duchak makes the music come alive and the tech aspects of the production are wonderful. Kevin Depinet's set is a multi purpose one that allows us to move from scene to scene with no lost minutes. Rachel Laritz has designed some great costumes that often resemble those of the film, but more often are unique and individual. Cassy Schillo's props are sheer perfection as are the lighting (Ryan O'Gara), sound (Ray Nardelli) and Neil Massey's stunts. Theater is designed to entertain, making audience members free their minds of the "stuff" they encounter daily and have a good time. This production does that! I just wanted it to do more with the music itself, and to maybe bring back some happier times (that I experienced).
I imagine that tickets for "Saturday Night Fever" will be difficult to get.