'Stayin' Alive' on Broadway ; 1970s Hit Movie 'Saturday Night Fever' Moves from Screen to Stage

By Ward Morehouse III , | The Christian Science Monitor, October 15, 1999 | Go to article overview
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'Stayin' Alive' on Broadway ; 1970s Hit Movie 'Saturday Night Fever' Moves from Screen to Stage


Ward Morehouse III ,, The Christian Science Monitor


The name alone may be enough for fans of a successful 1977 movie starring John Travolta to flock to the new Broadway megamusical "Saturday Night Fever."

And, if not the name, there's the hype. Mr. Travolta, who played Tony Manero in the coming-of-age disco classic, is expected to join dozens of other celebrities inside Broadway's Minskoff Theatre as the rubberneckers outside on the street are invited to dance to the booming Bee Gees beat of "Stayin' Alive" and "Night Fever."

To coincide with the event, Bloomingdale's is launching a line of clothes influenced by costumes in "Saturday Night Fever," such as the famous white suits and flared pants. Last week, "Today Show" co- anchor Katie Couric introduced a televised dance segment from the musical wearing vintage bell-bottoms.

Hoopla and hype aside, the question is whether this ambitious eight-year effort of turning the dated, but popular, movie into a musical will work for today's critics and audiences. Currently playing preview performances, the $9 million song-and-dance extravaganza officially opens Oct. 21.

The stage re-creation of the movie - the story of a blustery but kindhearted Brooklyn youth who dreams of disco dancing his way to fame and fortune - is already on its way to becoming a big hit. Manny Kladitis, the show's associate producer, says advance ticket sales are booming.

Favorable comparisons are already being made between "Saturday Night Fever" and the musical "Footloose," also based on a hit movie. "Footloose" is still playing to sold-out audiences one year after it opened.

"If people had a good time at 'Footloose,' they will have a good time at 'Saturday Night Fever,' " Mr. Kladitis says.

But New York entertainment historian D.C. MacLeod says he's skeptical about whether the musical "Saturday Night Fever" will live up to the movie.

"After all," Mr. MacLeod says, " 'Saturday Night Fever' is not just a film - it's an institution, a social commentary of what New York was like in the 1970s.... I don't believe that [the musical] could ever surpass what this piece of Americana [the film] generated at the time.

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