Disco Beat Turns Back The Clock

In 1997, Paramount Pictures released a musical — or a movie with music — that changed the life of its star and left a vivid image in the memories of the disco generation.

Tony Manerp (Trevor McChristian) and Stephanie Mangano (Alana Pollard) strut their stuff in the disco dance contest in the Wagon Wheel Theatre production of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER. (Photos by Scott Michaels)_

The movie was “Saturday Night Fever,” the star was John Travolta and the image was Travolta in a white suit striking a defiant dance pose.

The success of the film made its follow up by a live theatrical version almost a certainty and it didn’t take long before “Saturday Night Fever: The Musical” hit the stages of the world.

That was two decades ago (in London), followed in 2000 by a Broadway production and national and international tours that continue today.. The latest incarnation opened Wednesday evening at the Wagon Wheel Theatre in Warsaw.

For SNF fans, it’s all there — the pounding disco beat and haunting themes of the Bee Gees cinematic score (along with a number of songs written by several other composers just for the stage); the insistent beat of the disco dances; the whirling of the requisite mirror ball and the sadly unfocused lives of the young people, specifically in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn.

Tony Manero (Trevor McChristian) and his “crew” rage against their “Dog-Eat-Dog” life the Wagon Wheel Theatre production of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER.

At the center is Tony Manero’s drive to get out and find a better life across the bridge in Manhattan. In a dead end job, he finds expression, and some relie in dancing weekends at the 2001 Odyssey discoteque and, yes, that white suit dances again, here on the person of Trevor McChristian as Tony.

Along with the rest of the principals — Alana Pollard as Stephanie Mangano, Tony’s dance contest partner; Laura Plyler as Annette, his former partner who loves him; Ashlyn Maddox as Pauline, his sister; Cameron Sirian as Bobby, his friend and Pauline’s lover;

The local disco is filled with whirling dancers in the Wagon Wheel Theatre production of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER.

Michael Pacholski as Monty, Odyssey DJ; De’jah Jervai as Candy, disco singer, and the rest of Tony’s “gang,” Joe (Logan Foster), Gus ( Nick Case) and Double J (Ian Laudano) — they supply the powerful voices that provide words for the familiar songs and, for many in the enthusiastic audience, the energetic dance moves of that psychedelic decade.

It is definitely turn back the clock time!

One of the highlights of any “SNF” has got to be the now-classic melodies of the Bee Gees. Even those who are not familiar with the film or musical know “Stayin’ Alive,” “Night Fever,” “More Than A Woman” or “Jive Talkin’” among others. All are given full vocal, dance and instrumental treatment.

They are not the Brothers Gibb but the 11 musicians,  under the direction of guest conductor/keyboardist Andrew Callahan, give solid definition to the entire score. There is no mistaking that disco beat!

The costumes by Stephen R. Hollenbeck are as reminiscent of the smoke-filled ‘70s as the music, with plenty of shine and vivid colors forming a solid backdrop for that eventual white suit.

Tony Manero (Trevor McChristian, in white) leads the dancers in the last dance of the evening in the Wagon Wheel Theatre production of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER.

Michael Higgins’ spare but inclusive set design allows the urban locations to flow easily from bridge to disco,

and there is a generous center area allowing plenty of room for the talented dance ensemble to kick up its heels (literally) in the pulse-pounding dances choreographed by director Scott Michaels.

As in many Wagon Wheel shows, the dances are the very high points of this production with the ballads beautifully sung but, of necessity, slowing the action. SNF is set to a ‘70ys beat which is just right for the hip-swinging stride of the Strut.

Betcha can’t leave the theater without it!

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER plays through June 23 in the theater at 2517 E. Center St. in Warsaw. For performance times and reservations, call (574) 267-8041 or visit www.wagonwheelcenter.org


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