reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Anyone who has ever seen the 1977 movie version of Saturday Night Fever likely recalls the amazing dance sequences with John Travolta, someone we barely knew back then, while forgetting the depth of the story the film told.

Travolta’s character, nineteen year old Tony Manero, is a troubled youth stuck in a dead end life in Brooklyn NY – his parents are constantly on his back about his job, his clothes, his hair (and why he isn’t more like his brother , a priest); his gang of friends are not much more than fun-loving thugs who delve into petty crimes and a tribal mentality against other ethnic groups; his “girlfriend” is after him to get married. The one thing which lifts him in his life is his Saturday night forays to the dance club where he is king of the dance floor. Only there is he able to set aside all the conflicts of class, gender and generational family differences.

Candy (Megan Flynn), center, sings “Night Fever” at the 2001 Odyssey Club in “Saturday Night Fever” at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre.

Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s busy rendering of the 1999 Broadway theatrical production is directed by Jeff Stockberger, with choreography by Ron Morgan, and musical direction by Kristy Templet. All the dramatic aspects of the film are very much a part of this musical version, with plenty of familiar songs, plus new ones, punctuating the action. What is immediately striking to me is how different many of the song stylings and interpretations are from the recorded music in the film. A case in point would be The Bee Gee’s “If I Can’t Have You”, here sung by Annette, Tony’s wanna-be girlfriend, after she finds him with another. Soulfully offered by Kyra Leeds, the slower form resonates more fully as a sorrowful reaction than the original disco beat version would and is one of the highlights of the show.

Stephanie (Amanda Tong), left, and Tony (Jeremy Sartin) in a scene from “Saturday Night Fever” at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre.

As is usual with B&B’s endeavors, the talent level for Saturday Night Fever is sky-high. Jeremy Sartin stars as Tony Manero and has a strong presence onstage. His skillful dancing and nonpareil vocal talents, wrapped in a swoon-inducing physical mien, is perfect for Tony. (okay, I didn’t swoon, but I heard the ladies at some of the adjoining tables…) As his comely dance partner – Stephanie Mangano, Amanda Tong brings equal talents to the fore and is also quite striking. These two offer up an interesting boy/girl story arc – their love-story aptly played as flirtations blossoming into a fiery coupling, marked by terrific vocal and dance turns.

From left, Stephanie (Amanda Tong), Candy (Megan Flynn), and Annette (Kyra Leeds) sing “Nights on Broadway” in “Saturday Night Fever”, at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre.

The plethora of secondary roles are also well-covered. Standouts include the aforementioned Kyra Leeds as Annette; Megan Flynn, a singing dynamo as club-singer Candy; Peter Scharbrough, also offering pumped up vocals as the bewigged DJ, Monty; Joshua J. Schwartz and Megan Hasse, for their acting skills as Bobby C. and Pauline; as well as Damian Shembel as Tony’s gentle and priestly brother, Frank Jr.

Ron Morgan’s choreography shows his inventive touch and fills the stage with disco and romantic stylings. Kristy Templet has formed her vocal cadre into an exquisite sounding set of soloists and harmonizers. As good as the dancing is, I personally thought that the vocalizing surpassed it in many ways, a rare thing in a dance heavy Morgan-choreographed piece. Ms. Templet’s orchestra covered the upbeat score with ease, and guitarist Christopher Tucker deserves special mention for his work here. Finally, costumes coordinated by Jill Kelly Howe are colorfully era-correct and put the finishing touches on the production.

Tony Manero (Jeremy Sartin), center, dances to ‘You Should Be Dancing’ in “Saturday Night Fever”, at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre.

Bottomline: this surprisingly dark musical (I can only think of Les Misérables as being darker) is nonetheless a pleasing entertainment, full of great performances. Rated PG-13 – for a variety of reasons.

Saturday Night Fever continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through March 29th. Find show times and reservations at http://www.beefandboards.com or call the box office at 317-872-9664.

  • – photos by Julie Curry