Friday, July 17, 2015

Saturday Night Fever (Atlantis Theatrical)

Working at a paint shop, Tony Manero (Brandon Rubendall) does not seem to have a clear goal as to what he wants to achieve in life, but he does know one thing: He loves to dance. This is why he and buddies Double J (Nick Varricchio), Joey (Nel Gomez), and Bobby C (Bibo Reyes) always make sure to hit the 2001 Disco every weekend. His moves prove to be popular, attracting girls such as Annette (Mikkie Bradshaw) who repeatedly professes her love for him. But he only has eyes for Stephanie Mangano (Jenna Rubaii), the dancer who works in an office across the river. They get a chance to dance together in hopes of winning $500 in a competition. She makes it perfectly clear that their relationship should remain professional, but he obviously wants to be more than friends. With other everyday hang-ups to deal with, Tony and friends try to stay alive, mainly through dancing as a means of escape from reality.

From the very moment Tony Manero and his ensemble emerge onstage and shake their bell-bottoms to Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive, you just know that you are in for one hell of a groovy night. And you’re right. As you are bombarded with Bee Gee’s hits one right after the other, it would not be that hard to convince yourself that the price you paid for the ticket has all been worth it.  Get ready to go back to the 70’s. Here’s hoping you brought your dancing shoes with you!

So how is Rubendall as Tony Manero? RESPECT! There are a few moments wherein his voice seems to be drowned by the music while singing, but this mostly happens when he is engaged in some serious booty shaking, so we cut him some slack anyway. Seriously, let’s see you sing and dance like that at the same time. We could be forgiving. His energy on stage is just contagious. We are talking about queer 70’s disco dance moves here, for crying out loud, but he makes it look all legit as if it would definitely work if you did it at Valkyrie tomorrow night. No, it wouldn’t, but it works well here and now, for him that is. He’s got John Travolta down pat alright.

But that’s just him. Once the ensemble joins him in the dancing, they would make you want to come on stage yourself to bust a move, except that the mental image of you being dragged away by security prevents you from doing so. But admit it; you were dancing on your seat. The Bee Gees does that to you. Their disco beats, along with the neon lights and the funky costume will cast a spell on you and fill you with nostalgia, a longing for an era in which you never even belonged in the first place. The last musical to have such an effect on me was Mamma Mia! But that was just during the ending. For this particular musical, it’s for the entire first half! They do give you a chance to get up and dance after taking their respective bows, so save your dance moves for the curtain call.

Despite the almost five decade gap between the 70’s and present time, the main theme of the musical stays relevant and universal. Manero is the epitome of the lost teenager with no sense of direction in life. He is just so dense and naive, but what he probably does not know is that such feeling of being lost could continue even when you are already way past your prime. Life is actually kinder to him because he has one passion that he is sure of, which is dancing. Some never discover theirs at all, and end up doing stupid things thinking that their lives are devoid of meaning. Everyone requires a medium of escape once in a while, and dance is just one of the many awesome options.

Do give this musical a chance, even if you are a big fan of the film. Besides, theater as a medium would always have the advantage of giving you a more intimate experience. But you do get a little extra here given the disco theme. You would be thankful for the adrenaline rush and short trip back in time. Bringing your parents with you would be a good idea, not just because they probably grooved to these hits during their adolescence, but also because beyond all the dancing, a clear message regarding the value of family is also evident here.

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