There actually is an audience for Saturday Night Fever, which opens tonight at the Minskoff Theatre; those experiencing a mid-life crisis involving a bizarre but affectionate nostalgia for the 70s - or, what they can remember of it - and the type of tourist who is more than happy to drop $80 a ticket as long as they get to see plenty of scenery and special lighting effects. Since the advance sales on this lumbering behemoth of a musical assure a run of several months at least, trying to warn away discerning theatregoers seems a bit futile. It's big. It's glitzy. It's landed right in the heart of Times Square. And, like a celestial black hole, from which there is no escape, sooner or later its gravitational field will pull you in.
Who knows? You may even enjoy yourself. If you liked Footloose, you'll love Saturday Night Fever.
Against all odds, James Carpinello gives a more than respectable and winning performance as the self-centered and difficult to like Tony Manero. His acting and singing talents are up to the challenge of carrying a major musical, but it's his dancing that, you should forgive the expression, reveals his Achilles' heel. As hard as he seems to be working on the dance floor, he just misses projecting the flair and polish the role demands. And, he is not helped at all by Robin Wagner's ponderous and overly elaborate set. At times it seems as if Carpinello's performance is being deliberately sabotaged by the huge mirrors which fly or glide in at the most inopportune moments, just in time to show and magnify every minor little fault or awkward movement.
Paige Price, as Stephanie Mangano, Tony's object of desire, is appropriately pretentious and vulnerable in turn. Orfeh, as Annette, who desires Tony, provides the only true chills of the evening with her stunning "If I Can't Have You." Paul Castree, as Bobby C., whines and whimpers so much one wonders how he ever managed to get his girlfriend pregnant, then jumps off a bridge. BrYan Batt, as the DJ Monty (disco's testosterone-charged gift to women) sings "Disco Duck" as if he really means it.
The less said about Nan Knighton's almost adequate stage adaptation of the movie and Arlene Phillips' curiously determined direction and jumbled choreography, the better.
Stay home and rent the movie.
Saturday Night Fever The Musical based on the Paramount/RSO Picture, based on a story by Nik Cohn with screenplay by Norman Wexler. Stage adaptation by Nan Knighton in collaboration with Arlene Phillips, Paul Nicholas and Robert Stigwood. Featuring songs by The Bee Gees. Directed and Choreographed by Arlene Phillips. Starring James Carpinello, Paige Price, and Orfeh. With Bryan Batt, Richard H. Blake, Andy Blankenbuehler, Sean Palmer, and Paul Castree as Bobby C.' Scenic design by Robin Wagner. Costumes designed by Andy Edwards. Lighting designed by Andrew Bridge. Broadway Costumes designed by Suzy Benzinger. Dance and Vocal Arrangements by Phil Edwards. Sound designed by Mick Potter. Orchestrations by Nigel Wright. Fight Direction by J. Allen Suddeth.
Theatre: Minskoff Theatre, 200 W. 45th Street
Performance schedule: Tuesday through Sunday at 8 PM, Saturday at 2 PM, Sunday at 3 PM
Ticket prices: $30 to $80
Tickets online: http://www.ticketmaster.com
Tickets in person: Minskoff Box Office hours Monday through Saturday 10 AM to 8 PM
Tickets by phone: Ticketmaster at (212) 307-4100 or (800) 755-4000 outside of New York City