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Broadway at Duke Review: Saturday Night Fever Boogies Down at Duke

December 8, 2003 - Durham, NC:


The Troika Entertainment, LLC National Tour of a trimmed-down version of Saturday Night Fever, presented Dec. 3rd by Broadway at Duke, was a robust recreation of the 1999 Broadway musical based on the 1977 Paramount/RSO motion picture, starring John Travolta the movie that inspired disco dance craze of the 1970s. (The Robert Stigwood and Jon B. Platt production of SNF, which played Raleigh Memorial Auditorium June 3-8 as part of the Broadway Series South Encore Season, contained paint-store scenes that were missing in the current Troika tour.)

Smartly directed and cleverly choreographed by Arlene Phillips, who staged the original Broadway production that opened on Oct. 21, 1999 and ran for 501 performances through Dec. 30, 2000, this 180-proof traveling version of SNF starred Tony Gonzalez as Brooklyn paint-store clerk-turned-white-suited disco king Tony Manero and Kristin Piro as elegant Manhattan secretary-turned-disco queen Stephanie Mangano.

Gonzalez, who seemed a bit too short to play Manero, nevertheless gave a personable performance as a rough-around-the-edges Brooklyn kid with a humdrum daytime job and a nighttime dream of winning a slew of disco dance contests. Piro is tall (which draws attention to Gonzalez's height, or lack thereof) and limber and light on her feet. She also is good at revealing the real feelings that Stephanie suppresses under her aloof exterior.

Heidi Suhr is cute as Annette, a not-so-light-on-her-feet neighborhood girl with a BIG unrequited crush on Tony; and Brandon Nix is poignant as poor hypersensitive mixed-up Bobby C, who allows his buddies Tony, Joey (Keven Quillon), Double J (Andrew Call), and Gus (Fred J. Ross) to use his car for their nightly trysts with women they pick up at the 2001 Odyssey dance club.

Shea Rafferty was terrific as Monty, the swaggering DJ and randy dance teacher who puts the moves on most of his female pupils. And Tony Guerrero and Michelle Marmolejo were dynamite as Puerto Rican dance-contest finalists Cesar and Maria.

This Troika Entertainment tour of SNF, which featured Robin Wagner's scenic design and Suzy Benzinger's costume design from the original Broadway production, also featured lighting design by Rick Belzer, sound design by Mark Norfolk, and musical direction by Kep Kaeppeler. The orchestra, which performed the familiar Bee Gees hits with brio, combined with the strong singers in the cast to make this traveling version of SNF a pleasant evening.

Broadway at Duke: http://www.duke.edu/web/duu/broadway/broadwayevents.htm. Troika Entertainment, LLC: http://www.troika.com/snf.html. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/production.asp?ID=9684.