'Saturday Night Fever' proves there's life after Broadway | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

A scene from "Saturday Night Fever". CONTRIBUTED IMAGE
A scene from "Saturday Night Fever". CONTRIBUTED IMAGE
A scene from “Saturday Night Fever”. CONTRIBUTED IMAGE

“Saturday Night Fever (SNF),” the smash musical that drew inspiration from the ‘70s film of the same name, has been taking on a life of its own since bowing out from Broadway 15 years ago: spawning at least four UK Tour productions, seven International Tour productions, a cruise production, and a West End Revival production—proving the adage that “indeed, there’s life beyond the shadows of the Great White Way.”

“SNF’s” latest triumph, a newly reimagined production aimed at revisiting the gritty, chaotic, and dystopic elements of the film—initially announced to make tour stops in Manila, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore—has just added China and Australia to its itinerary. Patrick Bywalksi, deputy chairman of The Robert Stigwood Organisation, which produced the film and its succeeding film-to-stage adaptations, announced the extra tour stops on the opening night in Manila earlier this month. Bywalski said, “Now that we’re up and running, I trust that we should be able to secure more venues as per my announcement.

“This brand new production of ‘SNF’ represents a true value: the essence of the movie is respected all the way, [which was deliberately overlooked in the original West End and Broadway runs to appeal to a wider audience]. Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group (Ateg) director Bobby Garcia has epitomized Nick Cohn’s original story, ‘Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night,’” an article published in New York magazine in 1976, which served as the basis of the film.

In fact, local critics also noticed those stark similarities to the film. Vlad Bunoan, who edits for an online news portal, wrote in his review, “The musical is actually a near word-for-word adaptation of the popular 1977 movie that turned John Travolta into a global superstar. And it must be stressed that [film director] John Badham’s movie is set against a backdrop of a period in American history marked by economic malaise and a growing hopelessness.

“For Tony Manero [played by Broadway actor Brandon Rubendall], a 19-year-old dropout working at a paint store—as well as for many Americans—disco offered an escape from his dreary family life: his father is out of the job and his brother has decided to leave the priesthood.”

Bunoan continued, “The movie—and musical—also tackles the ’70s-era, sexual promiscuity, abortion, and racial violence. In short, this isn’t a retro, feel-good musical like ‘Mamma Mia’ or Travolta’s ‘Grease’… But if you’re a big fan of the movie in its dramatic entirety, you will be pleased by the way it was magically transported to the stage…”

Deemed too provocative, this latest incarnation of SNF actually comes in two versions: a Rated R version, which is the one currently playing in Manila, and a Parental Guidance (PG) version, which will be shown in countries whose theatergoers are considered more conservative. “As what we did with the film, we had two versions: one rated R and one PG. So we already know which parameters we have to work with to satisfy the local practice,” Bywalski revealed.

In spite of everything, the timeless songs of The Bee Gees that defined the disco era of the ‘70s have been retained in the musical’s score—prompting the audience to bob their heads to the beat, and get up and dance by the show’s end. Theatergoers leave the venue humming either “How Deep Is Your Love” or “Stayin’ Alive,” or either “Night Fever” or “You Should Be Dancing,” which makes for an incredible evening of live theater.

Touted as “the first Filipino-produced Broadway musical for the world,” whose primary proponents Ateg and Ten Bridges Media Corp., both based in Manila, Philippines, did not scrimp on the quality of expertise in this production as embodied by its A-list creative team: Bobby Garcia (stage direction), Broadway choreographer Vince Pesce (choreography), Tony winner David Gallo (set design), Broadway lighting designer Paul Miller (lighting design), costume designer Eric Pineda (costume design), sound designer Michael Waters (sound design), technical director Richard Martin (technical direction), graphic artist GA Fallarme (video projection design), musician Ceejay Javier (musical direction), and West End and London casting director Tara Rubin (casting).

“SNF” in Manila, which stars Rubendall (“Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark,”), Jenna Rubaii (“American Idiot”), Mikkie Bradshaw (“Carrie The Musical”), Nick Varricchio (“A Chorus Line”), and Carla Guevara-Laforteza (“Miss Saigon”), among others, plays The Theatre at Solaire Resort and Casino (ASEANA Avenue, Paranaque, Metro Manila) until Sunday, July 26.

Performances are also set at Istana Budaya (Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) from September 4 to 13 and at MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands (10 Bayfront Ave., Singapore) from September 25 to October 4.

For tickets in Manila, call Ateg at (632) 650 5144 or (63917) 8381534; or visit TicketWorld at ticketworld.com.ph.

“SNF” is presented by PLDT and Citibank, in cooperation with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, among others.

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