“Saturday Night Fever The Musical,” based on the 1977 film which popularized disco music around the world, will kick off in the country as part of its Asian tour—this time with Filipino performers on and off the stage.
The Manila leg of the tour runs from July 3 to 26, at The Theatre, Solaire Resort and Casino. “Saturday Night Fever” will be the second production to open in the newly constructed theater house after Concertus and Lunchbox Theatrical Productions’ “Chicago.”
Doing away with more family-friendly film-to-stage adaptations, the Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group said it will maintain the dark themes of the film including violence, racism and sex.
“We’re using a brand new script [originally written by playwright Nan Knighton, in collaboration with theater director Arlene Phillips, actor Paul Nicholas, and Robert Stigwood who produced the original “Saturday Night Fever” film] that brings back a lot of the grittiness and the coming of age in a tough world aspect of the movie. It’s edgy and exciting,” said Atlantis resident director Bobby Garcia in a press statement.
Brandon Rubendall plays the role of Tony Manero, a young Italian-American with a dead-end job in Brookyln, New York, who dreams of becoming a disco king. When he meets Stephanie Mangano (Jenna Rubaii), who also dreams of a world beyond Brooklyn, they decide to train together for a dance competition.
“When Brandon and Jenna walked into the audition room, I knew immediately that they were Tony and Stephanie,” Garcia said. “They possess that complex combination of grit and vulnerability and are both terrific actors. Add to that, they are excellent singers and dancers; the triple-threat combination is not easy to find.”
Both have performed in Broadway and national tours. Rubendall has appeared as Fiyero in “Wicked,” as The Lizard in “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark” and Fender in “Hairspray”; while Rubaii has starred in “American Idiot” as The Extraordinary Girl, “Grease” as Marty and “Rent” as Mimi.
Other confirmed cast members are Nick Varricchio (“A Chorus Line” and “Spring Awakening”) as Double J and Marie Rose, (“Strawberry Festival”) as the Latin dancer.
Filipino members of the cast, meanwhile, include Rafa Siguion-Reyna, Yanah Laurel, Jamie Wilson and Carla Guevarra-Laforteza.
Atlantis said the support characters and ensemble are all Filipinos; they will also be part of the other legs of the Asian tour.
While the start of rehearsals is scheduled for the end of May, the actors said they prepared by studying the 1970s. They watched period films and read newspaper articles, including New York Magazine rock journalist Nik Cohn’s “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night”—later admitted by Cohn to be a work of fiction—which was the basis for the plot and characters of the film.
“It’s nice that it was the era our parents grew up in. It is great to have that perspective from those who actually lived in the ’70s,” Rubaii said.
The film did not only ignite the disco revolution, it also propelled into popularity the actor John Travolta, who originally played Tony Manero, and made a cult following of the songs of The Bee Gees such as “Stayin’ Alive,” “Night Fever,” “How Deep is Your Love” and “You Should Be Dancing.”
Rubendall, while admitting he is “really nervous,” said of his character: “I want to do my own twist on it. I am going to keep the character; yes, this is Tony Manero but this is Brandon Rubendall’s Tony Manero.”
Atlantis has partnered with broadcast moguls Bobby Barreiro and Tony Tuviera to assemble the creative team of the production, which includes Garcia, David Gallo as scenic designer, Vince Pesce as choreographer, Paul Miller as theatrical lighting designer and Tara Rubin as the casting director.
Filipinos are also part of the creative team, with Eric Pineda as costume designer, Ceejay Javier as musical director and Johann dela Fuente as hair and makeup designer.
“Saturday Night Fever,” by Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group in cooperation with the Robert Stigwood Organization, will run from July 3 to 26 at The Theater, Solaire. It is also set to tour Kuala Lumpur (Sept. 1-15), Singapore (Sept. 25-Oct. 11) and Macau on dates to be announced. For tickets and more information, call 8927078 or like facebook.com/ATEGasia.