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Review: Saturday Night Fever, Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

By John Nurden

Put on your Boogie Shoes for a Disco Inferno of hit songs from the 70s.

If you loved the Bee Gees and tried to strut your stuff on the dance floor like John Travolta 40-odd years ago, then this touring version of Saturday Night Fever is for you.

All your favourites are here and on opening night at Canterbury's Marlowe Theatre the crowd gave the hard-working cast a standing ovation.

The cast of Saturday Night Fever at the Marlowe, Canterbury. Picture: Pamela Raith Photography (6989340)
The cast of Saturday Night Fever at the Marlowe, Canterbury. Picture: Pamela Raith Photography (6989340)

It has a clever set of metal gantries sliding into place to create downtown Brooklyn, lead character Tony Manero's home and bedroom, a dance studio and Club 2001 disco with a tilted mirror revealing a fully lit dance floor and a plethora of mirror balls.

The lighting, as you would expect, is spot on.

The original film, best remembered for its soundtrack, was a bit grittier as was the original West End production which starred Shaun Williamson (Barry from EastEnders) as Monty the DJ.

Richard Winsor in Saturday Night Fever at the Marlowe, Canterbury. Picture: Pamela Raith Photography (6989338)
Richard Winsor in Saturday Night Fever at the Marlowe, Canterbury. Picture: Pamela Raith Photography (6989338)

This production still gives a nod to unwanted pregnancies, suicide and rape but it is more what people call a jukebox musical. Think Mama Mia meets the Village People but with swearing, which it really doesn't need.

The elephant in the room, of course, is who plays Tony.

Richard Winsor, 37, has taken on the challenge to fill Travolta's boogie shoes. It is his first starring role in a musical but he is no newcomer.

Richard Winsor in Saturday Night Fever at the Marlowe, Canterbury. Picture: Pamela Raith Photography (6989336)
Richard Winsor in Saturday Night Fever at the Marlowe, Canterbury. Picture: Pamela Raith Photography (6989336)

He was Caleb Knight in the BBC's medical drama Casualty for three years until he was killed by a patient's relative.

He has an excellent dance record, starring in Matthew Bourne's all-male ballet group for 10 years in Swan Lake, Dorian Gray and Edward Scissorhands, and he can do the Travolta swagger although he doesn't have Travolta's jet -black hair. He also looks a bit like a dancing Data from Star Trek, if you let your mind wander, and I'm pretty sure I saw some flossing going on.

But he really holds the show together.

Kate Parr and Richard Winsor in Saturday Night Fever at the Marlowe, Canterbury. Picture: Pamela Raith Photography (6989334)
Kate Parr and Richard Winsor in Saturday Night Fever at the Marlowe, Canterbury. Picture: Pamela Raith Photography (6989334)

There were swoons and gasps from the audience when he revealed a perfectly chiselled six-pack and had problems zipping up the fly to his iconic white suit pants.

Kate Parr is perfectly poised as his upwardly mobile dance partner Stephanie Mangano and there is great support from Anna Campkin (Annette), Melody E Jones (mum), Philip Aidan (dad), Marios Nicolaides (brother Frank), Raphael Pace (Bobbie C), Owen Broughton (Gus), Michael Cortez (Joey), and Jared Thompson (Double Jay). Faizal Jaye tackles the reduced role of DJ Monty and makes it his own.

The Bee Gees (Ed Handoll, Alastair Hill and Matt Faull) make it onto the stage, well, a giant gantry, along with musical director Richard Morris' excellent band.

Kate Parr and Richard Winsor in Saturday Night Fever at the Marlowe, Canterbury. Picture: Pamela Raith Photography (6989330)
Kate Parr and Richard Winsor in Saturday Night Fever at the Marlowe, Canterbury. Picture: Pamela Raith Photography (6989330)

* Saturday Night Fever, produced and directed by Bill Kenwright, runs until Saturday, February 9. To book tickets visit marlowetheatre.com or call 01227787787.

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