Saturday Night Fever: Sydney Lyric Theatre 1 May 2019

I always look forward to a night at the Lyric Theatre at Sydney’s The Star Casino. For largely dubious reasons. The Star is tacky, over crowded and noisy. I quite like that and the people watching that goes with it. I like the location at Pyrmont on Sydney Harbour and its accessiblity. And I like the Lyric itself – it’s a good theatre for audibility and importantly, the sight lines are great. I’ve been in Row Z – the back row – and still seen everything. That occasion was for a (now infamous) performance of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

My other reason for enjoying the Lyric is ice cream related. The wonderful Messina Gelato is positioned right outside the theatre! That has to be a reason to eat ice cream before the show. In this case a double cup of Salted Caramel and White Chocolate with Have A Gay Old Time, this latter a take on the Streets classic Gaytime. Delicious. Worth the calories.

I only wish that the show had as much enjoyment as the ice cream. Both were retro, re-creating the bold and beautiful seventies. But I certainly didn’t “have a gay old time” in this performance of the Bee Gees classic Saturday Night Fever.

The performance was lacklustre, so it was lucky that the friends I went with proved entertaining, sparkling even! In general, despite some great dancing – the show’s main strength – the energy seemed down and there was a lack of audience connection on the night we went. It was hard to get a reaction from the crowd, despite a few lone souls who occasionally cheered a favoured performer.

For me the largely digital set was problematic, particularly when it appeared to be moving menacingly downstage. At times it was just distracting, at other times quite discombobulating. The other technical element of the set was the video screen which projected recorded performances of Tony’s parents. Another distraction. And Mark Mitchell and Denise Drysdale, while entertaining, had trouble sustaining Brooklyn accents.

I think of musicals as showcasing talented triple threat performers. The leads in this production, Euan Doidge as Tony and Melanie Hawkins as Stephanie, sure could dance, but didn’t sing at all. And Tony needed to bring more believability to the role and at times to speak up – a lot of the audience were of the generation that need their actors to enunciate. In other words, old and somewhat deaf!

Angelique Cassimatis as the love lorn Annette could do all three. Her rendition of the ballad “If I Can’t Have You” was poignant and heartfelt, and showed her singing talent, while her descent into drunken and wildly provocative behaviour was credible and garnered sympathy.

The Star Vocalists performed their musical numbers with technical ease but not with a whole lot of enthusiasm. Even Paulini looked like she would rather be some place else. However Marcia Hines as The Diva showed that she has still got it – belting out her tunes with all the ease and energy of a person quite a few years younger…

It was still good to hear those well known numbers “Stayin’ Alive”, “How Deep Is Your Love”, “Night Fever”, “Tragedy”and “More Than A Woman”. They’re classics and it’s hard to not enjoy them.

What I did love was the band. It’s always a regret when you go to a musical that you don’t get to see those amazing musicians without whom the singing and dancing wouldn’t happen. The eight piece band did a great job and supported the cast well.

Back to the dancing – this was the best thing about the show and all credit to the hardworking ensemble. The boys (who mostly had characters unlike the girls) were fabulous and engaged with the action and storyline. But there weren’t enough of the ensemble – it was rather underwhelming and you really couldn’t get excited about the disco scenes with so few on the set.

Did Saturday Night Fever make us wistful for the seventies or encourage us to get back on the dance floor? Not really. I just wanted to go back to Messina Gelato to taste Tyrion. The influence of Game of Thrones is all pervasive.