Last night I was fortunate enough to go and watch the South African production of Saturday Night Fever. Ironically enough, it is one of the only musicals I had not see before and I was excited to go to a musical with no expectations or ideas about what the production ‘should’ be like. I knew about John Travolta and his fantastic white suit and I knew that the movie was about dancing and popularised Disco music, but that was where my knowledge more or less ended.
Let’s start with the music, I LOVED IT. Disco music is such a fast paced and exciting genre to dance to and it was really fun to watch this come alive on stage. I was surprised to see how much music I recognised throughout the production. Songs like Boogie shoes, staying alive and more than a woman were performed and it made me very happy. The music used in the play is just so happy that you can’t help but tap along.
What goes hand in hand with a story about dancing? The choreography of course and WOW was it amazing! The cast was so extremely talented in the dancing department that I was blown away by how wonderfully all the dances were executed. From complicated lifts too fast disco moves, it was all put together so beautifully. Being a past ballroom dancer myself, many of the dance moves brought back such great memories. Watching the actors dance on stage made me miss dancing and the high that it can give you. There is something different about Disco choreography. It is not as gender specific as other styles of dance and it was fascinating because instead of watching couples dance as a leader and a follower, it was more a sense of just keep up! Everything moved so fast that if you had to blink you would miss it all and I loved that feeling of not knowing what comes next.
Whichever way you look at it, I am an art department baby. My passion lies within the art department and it is the first thing I notice at any production. What stood out for me in this production was the Production design. It was so inventive and honestly nothing like I have seen on South African stages before. The way the stage moved and how the different ‘blocks’ were used to manipulate the surroundings was brilliant. The underground Disco club and the top of the Brooklyn bridge were so well presented and it gave the production a whole new perspective. The club felt deep and heavy and the bridge felt high and daunting.
One of the scenes that stood out for me with regards to the production design was towards the end when the main characters were singing about their misfortunes and every block was lit differently, revealing different people and their different situations. It was really a wonderful moment in the story and it was executed so well. The costumes, scenery and background action all gave the audience a very good sense of where the story was and the type of feel that was in the city at the time.
From the beginning, it was obvious that the cast of the production is very talented. However, the leads Daniel Buys and Natasha Vander Merwe were exceptional. There are many cases where a supporting role can outshine the lead role however this was not the case in this production. Both leads were so extremely strong with their performances that I could not take my eyes off of them. Daniel Buys sang and danced all at once while staying slick. His accent was also so well done and within an hour and a half or so, I grew to love his portrayal of the character. Natasha Vander Merwe, on the other hand, was equally as strong of a dancer and her voice was just beautiful. When she sand the song ‘What kind of fool’ I felt like I was in a trance and I did not want it to end. The two of them together made such a fantastic team on stage and I wouldn’t be surprised if they found themselves acting opposite each other in many other productions in the future. They really were the whole package.
Overall the production was a celebration of good music, good dancing and a great story. A story full of friendship, passion, honest mistakes and honest apologies. From not knowing much about Saturday Night Fever, I can now declare that I am a big fan! The production is running until the 9th of October at the state theatre in Pretoria. Tickets are available from Computicket and I highly suggest you make the trip to be transported into the 1970’s and the world of Disco.