Saturday night fever

By Nick Cohn, based on the 1977 movie of that name. Translated by Eli Bijaoui. Choreography by Oz Morag. Directed by Gilad Kimchi Cameri, January 6.

‘SATURDAY NIGHT Fever’ in Hebrew (photo credit: KFIR BOLOTIN)
‘SATURDAY NIGHT Fever’ in Hebrew
(photo credit: KFIR BOLOTIN)
Technically this production is a marvel in terms of set, costumes, lighting and music. Eran Atzmon’s big, sometimes glittery set pieces, such as the Odyssey Club, a dance studio, the hero’s two-level home, move smoothly on and off Cameri 1’s big stage. Ula Shevtsov’s wonderful and correct period costumes provide a cornucopia of glitz and color. Bambi’s (Avi Yona Bueno) dramatic lighting is faultless as always, while the live band, the music directed by Amir Lekner, plays with vigor and pizzazz.
Oz Morag’s choreography however, though very well and energetically danced by the large cast, tends to be monochromatic save for the three “competition” dances that are daring, dazzling and choreographically interesting.
Like many musicals, the storyline tends to be marginal, a backdrop for the singing and dancing, and so it is here. A kind of West Side Story’s younger (and less dramatically compelling) brother, Saturday Night Fever tells the story of Tony Manero (Gal Popular) whose only escape from his dead-end life, home and job is dancing at Odyssey, the local disco, where his prowess is admired and where he hopes to win a competition worth $1,000 and a cup. He chooses as his partner not Annette (Shani Shauli), who’s in love with him, but Stephanie (Dana Frider), a glamorous and socially ambitious blonde, for whom he falls big-time.
Along the way there’s Pauline (Noy Halperin), who gets pregnant by Bobby (Alon Sendler) with tragic results, Tony’s interaction with his family, Frank (Eli Danker), his unemployed father, Flo (Sandra Schonwald), his beaten-down mother and his brother, Frank Junior (Tal Weiss) who has decided to quit the priesthood, and other plot odds and ends.
However, the real stars of SNF are the iconic songs, originally sung by the BeeGees – “Stayin’ Alive,” “Night Fever,” “More Than a Woman” and “If I Can’t Have You” among the rest, and their singers sing them gloriously, some of them in English.
Overall the performances are superbly realized. Young Popular is a find, a charismatic and appealing Tony. Halperin makes a big deal of Pauline and her Brooklyn nasality is perfect. Shauli has a big voice that she uses well and her forsaken Annette is touching. Frider, a fine and expressive dancer, makes a charming Stephanie, but, will somebody please give her a different undergarment for the beautiful white dress she wears for the “competition.” The tan thing is a horror. Eli Danker, a superb actor, is wasted as Frank, but makes him memorable. Wannabe, muddled Bobby is well realized by Alon Sendler and both Schonwald and Weiss are strong in their roles.
The big question for this production is why? Why revive a period that is basically dead as a dodo? The only reason can be to make a splash. This it does. Big Time. Decibelwise too. Loudest is the order of the day, and at the end of it, we’re really not left with much.