The 1970s box office hit, Saturday Night Fever featuring the young and rising John Travolta and the Bee Gees’s greatest disco hits such as “Night Fever,” “How Deep Is Your Love,” “You Should Be Dancing” and “Staying Alive” has literally taken Manila by storm. Today, Filipinos are back on their feet, dancing to timeless Bee Gees music as Saturday Night Fever—The Musical, makes its final run at The Theatre of Solaire all through this last weekend of July.
This 21st century reiteration of the disco phenomenon and tripping the light fantastic is produced by Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Corp., Ten Bridges Media Corp., and the Robert Stigwood Organisation. (Australian impresario and Bee Gees manager Stigwood co-produced the original movie.) Audience reactions and ticket sales so far indicate that the show not only hit the Filipinos’ soft spot for music but has them shaking and boogieing once again. The much lauded production owes to the skill of the screen-to-stage adaptation by book writer Nan Knighton (in collaboration with choreographer Arlene Phillips, actor-singer Paul Nicholas, and Stigwood), and the brilliant direction of Bobby Garcia, as performed by the astonishing cast.
Saturday Night Fever—The Musical’s disco grandeur and urban grit-and-grime come hauntingly to life in the scenic design by David Gallo (Tony Award winner for The Drowsy Chaperone in 2006; he also designed Best Musicals Memphis and Thoroughly Modern Millie) and lighting by Paul Miller (whose Broadway credits as assistant, associate, or lighting designer include Titanic, The Producers, Sweeney Todd, and Legally Blonde). Choreography is by Vince Pesce, native Brooklynite and frequent associate choreographer of Tony winner Kathleen Marshall (Anything Goes, The Pajama Game, Wonderful Town), lovingly recreates the unforgettable dance moves of the movie and the 1970s era.
The lead role of Tony Manero, is vividly fleshed out by Brandon Rubendall acknowledged by the Robert Stigwood Organization itself to be one of the best Tony Maneros in all its previous productions of SNF. Rubendall’s female counterpart is Jenna Rubaii (who plays the steely ambitious and touchingly vulnerable, Manhattan wannabe Stephanie). The stellar Filipino cast include the redoubtable Carla Guevara-Laforteza in a double role as the put-upon mother and the decidedly Donna Summer-esque disco diva, along with Jamie Wilson, Mikkie Bradshaw, Rafa Siguion-Reyna, among others.
As the show ends and after the rousing standing ovation, the audience—from Me Generationals to Millenials—are more often than not, seen milling out at the lobby of the Theatre, waiting for the cast to come out and mingle with them (which they habitually do). Many theatergoers have their photos taken beside the standee showing Rubendall doing the iconic Travolta pose immortalized in the theatre/ movie poster. When Rubendall emerges to frantic requests for selfies and autographs, eager fans then repeat the meme with him. Teens, weaned on Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber, sing “More Than A Woman” and “Night Fever” on their way out into the night.