Produced by: Broadway By The Bay
Directed by: Josh Marx
Choreographed by: Nicole Helfer, with associate choreographer Zoe Swenson-Graham
Music direction by: Eryn Allen and Alicia Jeffrey
Featuring: Nick Bernardi as Tony Manero, Sammi Hildebrandt as Annette, and Anya Absten as Stephanie Mangiano. The cast also features Brigitte Losey (Pauline), David Blackburn (Bobby), Anthony Maglio (Double J), Jesse Cortez (Gus), Marco Simental (Joey), Joe Hudleson (Monty / Frank), Kris Hudelson (Flo), and Camille Edralin (Candy) with the ensemble comprised of Kylie Abucay, Anastasia Cooper, Sofia Costantini, Katie Edralin, Erin Gentry, Carlos Guerrero, Matt Hammons, Javi Harnley, Miko Ison, Neal Pascua, and Johann Santos.
When: August 10 through August 26, 2018. ASL Interpreted performance, 2 p.m. August 25, 2018.
Where: Fox Theater, 2215 Broadway Street, Redwood City
Tickets: $$44 to $66. Call 650-579-5565, visit broadwaybythebay.org, or go to the Box Office, 2219 Broadway Street, Redwood City.
the singing? Not so much, but it's OK
"Saturday Night Fever" the movie had great acting, even better dancing and of course iconic falsetto singing from those original medallion men, The Brothers Gibb, better known as the Bee Gees.
Broadway By The Bay's production at The Fox Theater in Redwood City has the acting and dancing, and tries hard on the singing. It often succeeds, though not always.
We open to an industrial set in 1977 Brooklyn, and the radio announcing "Elvis is pronounced dead." Young buck Tony Manero and the company assembles and sings "Stayin' Alive … Life goin' nowhere, somebody help me please." This is a tough song to start with, and we have to reset our expectations to singers with normal voices. But once the ensemble starts kicking up their heels, we realize what the core theme of this musical is about — dancing. And disco, with glittery costumes, shirts open to the navel (medallion optional), and of course that designer decoration — the disco ball. Nicole Helfer's choreography is matched only by Tammy Berlin's sparkly costumes.
Tony Manero is played by Nick Bernardi with New York-Italian studliness and greased back hair to match. He pouts, he combs his hair and he struts, bouncing on his platforms, arms flailing out in front. Love interest Stephanie Mangano (Anya Absten) asks him "Why do you walk like that?" "I call it the Brooklyn Strut," says Tony. "It tells people not to mess with me."
Tony has a small group of close guy-friends and they hang out discussing girls, dancing, the future and how to escape the lack of opportunity in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. In other words, typical "angry young men." Tony's father Frank (Joe Hudelson) has already lost his job in construction, and his mother Flo (Kristina Hudelson) poo-poos Tony's dancing.
But dancing is Tony's life and his favored venue is the club Odyssey 2001, when he's not at the dance studio practicing his moves. The boys and girls show off their steps to the sounds of "Boogie Shoes" and "Jive Talkin'." Annette (Sammi Hilderbrandt) thinks she and Tony should be dance partners, and preferably more. But Tony shuns her for the more enticing Stephanie, who also happens to be a good dancer. Hilderbrandt gives a touching rendition of "If I Can't Have You" which really tugs at the heart strings. But Tony is set on pursuing Stephanie and wants her to partner with him in the upcoming dance competition.
This is a deeply New York story and the accents could have been a little stronger, though Absten's Stephanie and Hudelson's Flo talked like good "New Yoarkers." There is some good interplay between Tony's mini-gang of Joey, Bobby C, Gus and Double-J, played respectively by Marco Simental, David Blackburn, Jesse Cortez and Anthony Magilo. Bobby (David Blackburn) gets his girlfriend Pauline (Brigette Losey) pregnant and asks Tony for advice. "We're like cousins," he says to Tony. "We're Italian Bobby," says Tony, "everybody's our cousin!"
Neal Pascua does a fine job channeling Richard Simmons as dance studio owner Pete, and Camille Edralin as Candy belts out a couple of classics with "Night Fever" and "Nights On Broadway." But the standout of the show is, of course, the dancing. Disco originated in black dance clubs and made its way through the white gay clubs before ending up in the mainstream. Bernardi certainly has the moves, and the strut.
The costumes by Tammy Berlin are great, all sparkly like the disco balls, but we had to wait for the famous white suit. Tony's elder brother Frank Jr. (Zaya Kolia) comes home after leaving the priesthood, and buys the suit for his little brother. He wears it to the dance competition and he and Stephanie win. But Tony shows a good deal of moral fiber when he says that the Latino couple should have come first, and he gives them the trophy and the prize money.
Tony only has his dancing, but this seems to be enough for Stephanie, and they sing "How Deep Is Your Love." All that's left is for Tony and the company to put on a dazzling final display of dancing, and show off that famous Travolta stance, pointing to the sky, white suit and all. Put on your boogie shoes.
Email Tony Lacy-Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org