Put on your bell-bottoms and platform shoes because the Gateway Playhouse is bringing it back to the ’70s with the final show in its mainstage season, Saturday Night Fever. Playing at Gateway’s Bellport theater, Saturday Night Fever is a celebration of the music of the Bee Gees and other disco icons, featuring those songs you can’t help but groove to—“Stayin’ Alive,” “Disco Inferno,” “Boogie Shoes” and more.
The show begins with a dazzling dance number as we are thrust into the Brooklyn and Manhattan of the late ’70s, complete with disco balls, wild lights, big hair and iconic dance moves. Nineteen-year-old Italian-American Tony Manero is an associate at a paint store by day and king of the dance floor at night. While Tony has big dreams and impressive moves, he still lives at home with his religious mother, an unemployed father with a hot temper and a brother who recently left the priesthood.
Luke Hamilton as Tony Manero is charming, portraying a character who is a little rough around the edges, a bit vain, but lovable nonetheless. Tony becomes smitten with the beautiful Stephanie Mangano, played by Jenny Florkowski, a talented actress with a beautiful, powerful voice. His attempts to charm Stephanie fall flat at first, but the two form an attachment through their shared passion: dancing.
Tony and his friends spend their time acting out a certain period-specific Italian-American cliché: smoking cigarettes, drinking, chasing girls, taking risks, getting into fights and dancing at the local discotheque. His friends, Bobby C, Double J, Gus and Joey are considered deadbeats, with no plans for the future and with bad attitudes. Their ensemble number “Jive Talkin” is fun and showcases their talents.
Stephanie, who works in a swanky Manhattan office, finds Tony’s lifestyle distasteful, but also finds herself inexplicably drawn to him. The two pair up for a dance competition at Tony’s club and the bond between them grows stronger.
In the meantime, Tony’s jilted dance partner, Annette, is heartbroken, having fallen in love with Tony and having harbored her own hopes to win the dance competition with him. Haley Hannah as Annette gave me goose bumps with her stunning rendition of “If I Can’t Have You.” Annette’s heartbreak over losing Tony is real, and Hannah brings drama and emotion to her performance that is spellbinding.
Amma Osei plays the role of Candy, the sultry songstress of the 2001 Odyssey nightclub. Her vocals are stunning and show-stopping. I especially loved her number “Nights on Broadway.”
Another favorite of mine was “Stuck,” sung by Tony, Stephanie, Bobby C and his childhood sweetheart Pauline—who has become pregnant. The number is powerful, showcasing the emotional upheaval of the characters. Bobby C, played by Jeremy Greenbaum, and Pauline, played by Jillian Butterfield, are exceptional; both actors perform with strong emotion so that the audience can feel their despair and love for one another.
After a bittersweet end to the dance competition, chaos breaks out amongst our characters as the harsh realities of life—and death—are thrust upon them.
Directed by Keith Andrews, who brought the ’80s alive earlier this summer with Gateway’s production of Rock of Ages, this production showcases another iconic era and will bring you back in time to experience the clothing, the hair, the songs and the dancing of the ’70s.
Saturday Night Fever plays at the Gateway Playhouse, 215 South Country Road, Bellport, through September 12. For tickets and information visit gatewayplayhouse.com.