Drury Lane starts “Saturday Night Fever: with a Bang
Ah the seventies…
Pants were tighter, dance floors were brighter, and everybody knew the moves to every dance.
Drury Lane’s production of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER has all the elements you’d expect from the disco era. As soon as you walk in the theater you’re surrounded by lights and music. There are purple and red lights roving the theater. You’ve got KC and the Sunshine Band blasting over the speakers (courtesy of sound design by Ray Nardelli). The mood is set and you’re ready to party.
Luckily, the flash doesn’t stop there. The musical begins with a symbolic bringing disco back from the dead. Playing off of Phantom of the Opera’s chandelier reveal, Drury Lane gives you a massive disco ball being revealed and hoisted to the ceiling. The ensemble then comes out singing Stayin’ Alive. This fits the theme of the overall show - everyone in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge is just trying to stay alive.
King of the Dance Floor
The story follows Brooklyn teenager, Tony, as he navigates through life with his deadbeat friends, his mundane job, and troubled home life. The only thing that keeps him going is Saturday night at the 2001 Odyssey dance club. There he reigns as king of the dance floor. When the club hosts a dance competition for $1,000 prize, Tony teams up with club newcomer Stephanie. Through this budding romance, Tony begins to see life outside Brooklyn and if he could potentially make something of himself.
Adrian Aguilar plays Tony with all the swagger you’d expect from a 19-year-old dance god. He creates unique and charming moments that show Tony’s youthful eagerness - dancing in front of a mirror while getting ready to go out, tucking not one, not two, but three napkins in his shirt while eating, and his eager pursuit of Stephanie. All in all, Aguilar was a great choice to cast as the leading man for SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER.
The newest addition to the cast, Alex Newell, also has shining moments. Newell brings it all home when he’s singing the Odyssey’s signature song, Disco Inferno. He has a powerhouse voice perfect for a club divo. While he can command attention while he’s singing, there are moments where Candy needs to be a commanding presence in regular scenes. It will be interesting to see how Newell grows into this role and if he can make Candy pop.
High Energy but Lacking Cohesiveness
Everyone in the cast has amazing energy and looks like they are having the time of their lives. After all, this was the energy that surrounded discos. It was all about dancing to get out a week’s worth of pent up energy and sexual tension. This was director Dan Knechtges’ intent for the show. It was about leaving it all on the dance floor with others like you.
However, the script has limitations that the directing and acting can’t entirely overcome. The relationships feel stilted throughout the show. Every time there might be some depth, the scene or song ends too fast.
For example, after Tony and Stephanie get over the initial first dance awkwardness, they fall into a comfortable rhythm. But just when you think there night be a chance to see them fall in love, the scene is over. The show’s lack of emotional cohesiveness may be frustrating for some, but you don’t really need much more than surface level to enjoy the show.
Reflective of the 70s
Everything from the costume design, to the set, to the lighting, (not to mention the rampant sexism) are all indicative of the seventies. Ryan O’Gara has pulled out all the stops when it comes to creating the discoteque. His lightning design to create a disco floor was a highlight of the show.
Rachel Laritz probably had a lot of fun putting together some of the outfits onstage. It was great to see a variety of costumes from wrap dresses to jumpsuits to the guys’ signature leather jackets. And the set designed by Kevin Depinet was also spot on in creating 2001 Odyssey as the central hub for the play. The detail put into each vinyl booth and upholstered wall gave it the retro worn-in feel of any club.
While there was some jumping around from place to place, this show is great if you’re looking for a groovy night out. If you’re expecting the 70s, SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER has it all.
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.
Now through April 9, 2017
Wednesdays: 1:30 p.m.
Thursdays: 1:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Fridays: 8:00 p.m.
Saturdays: 5:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Sundays: 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Drury Lane Theatre
100 Drury Lane
Oakbrook Terrace, 60181
$45 - $60
Student group tickets start at $30
Senior Citizens start at $40 for matinees.
Tickets are available by calling the box office at 630.530.0111, TicketMaster at 800.745.3000
or visit DruryLaneTheatre.com