Storyhouse Live, Chester – until Saturday 14 September 2019
Reviewed by Julie Noller
Dust off your platforms, shake out your bellbottoms and prepare to let your inner disco diva shine through for quite possibly the best Disco era movie has been brought to the stage by Bill Kenwright; over 40 years after John Tavolta struted and captivated us as disco king Tony Manero.
What is special about this production is the fact Jake Byrom, James Kenneth Haughton and Danny Knott are just as centre stage as the cast in retelling a story that has you twitching in your seat itching to boogie on down reaching new highs as The Gibb Brothers or aka The Bee Gees.
This is truly a musical for it’s toe tapping, dazzling and with tunes that you can’t help but sway and join in with. Many audience members will be reliving their own Disco heydays, some like me remember dancing with parents around the front room. The costumes will have raised a few memorable smiles, there was the odd wolf whistle after the gasps as Tony Stripped to don the infamous white suit. Richard Windsor whilst not as obnoxious as John Travolta, portrays Tony Manero with a confidence that whiffs of self importance and egotism. A young man seeking his place in an ever evolving world, not to follow his Fathers footsteps. His passion for dancing along with pristine clothes and hair (don’t touch the hair) can’t help but raise a smile. So self assured and yet lost deep down here is a young man ready to break away from conventions and smash the mould.
It’s not all a happy, rose tinted trip back down memory lanes. There’s the stories that interweave and highlight friendship, the highs and lows, unwanted pregnancy, promiscuity, church, expectations and suicide along side potential rape. Natasha Firth is brilliant as Annette, poor love lorn and desperate. Seeking solace in pills yet her heart wrenching screams well you can’t help but hold your breath. Her rendition of If I Can’t Have You, highlights her singing credentials, she truly is a talented young lady, it really is superb. Then there’s Olivia Fines as Stephanie Mangano – yes we heard the line ‘your last name is almost the same’ many times, but it wasn’t just the names that were similar but personalities too I feel. Olivia dazzled us with her dancing skills and wow to wear those high cut 70s leotards, such legs! You do get to the end wondering why disco developed such a bad name and died out.
It’s skillful, energetic and joyful, the clothes fitting of the many peacocks showing off; dazzling and shiny. I loved the fact we became not the audience in the theatre but the audience on the sidelines in the disco. The disco ball glittered above us cascading us in light, encouraging our participation. All the dance moves you expect are included and more, the cast can be forgiven for being out of breath, they are as energetic as any HIIT class yet I suspect far more fun. Songs such as Stayin’ Alive, Jive Talkin’, More Than a Woman amongst others will have you singing and clapping along.
Having had a quick look through the programme I was prepared and excited in equal measures to jump to my feet after a well deserved standing ovation to join my fellow audience members to strut my stuff to the Mega mix that included Disco Inferno, Night Fever and You Should Be Dancing. Everyone was reluctant to leave wanting the party to continue, sadness was in the air, why did disco die? Moves like those exhibited by Richard Windsor deserve to live forever and should be treated with the respect such skilful choreography deserve. Unfortunately for me all that was left was to sing Stayin’ Alive (quietly) to myself and walk as only Tony Manero can walk back to my car, ok I strutted!!!