Review: Saturday Night Fever at Wales Millennium Centre

Saturday Night Fever

“slick and energetic”

I knew absolutely nothing about this show when I went in to watch it so everything was new to me. I of course knew the songs that were sung such as “You Should Be Dancing”, “Tragedy”, “Night Fever” and more, but as for the plot I was none the wiser.

My overall impression of both the show and this specific production was that I was pleasantly surprised. I was predicting to enjoy it and think”oh that was fun” but not a lot more than that. However, I was instead up and dancing at the end along with the rest of the stalls, had a big smile on my face throughout the big dance numbers and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

The cast of Saturday Night Fever

The story revolves around the main character of Tony Manero, played by Richard Winsor who has previously starred in Casualty and was also part of Matthew Bourne’s company, featuring in Swan Lake and many others. Winsor’s talent, then, is undoubted and he delivered a stunning performance throughout. The character of Tony is one who wishes to escape his current life of an abusive father and working in a paint shop to become a dancer. He hangs out with his buddies and through their lives we see the story take on some darker elements, covering topics such as suicide, rape, abortion and drugs.

Richard Winsor and the cast of Saturday Night Fever

Winsor has described the plot of the film as quite gritty and dark and says that this new production, produced by Bill Kenwright, stays with the grittiness of the original story but also has something for everyone with its upbeat music and liveliness.

The production cleverly includes The Bee Gees in the performance by having them on a raised platform at the back of the stage. Not only does this help drive the narrative, but it also brings a whole new element of electricity and life to the stage, giving the audience a sense that they are at a Bee Gees tribute concert and a musical at the same time.

Richard Winsor had the stage presence that every actor dreams of; it was impossible to take my eyes off him the whole time. A John Travolta-esque performance without an imitation of Travolta himself, creating a wonderful and enjoyable portrayal of a likable, funny, bold and charming lead.

Winsor’s female counterpart, Kate Parr, played the role of Stephanie Mangano, a wannabee posh girl, with a new job in Manhattan and attempt at losing her Brooklyn accent. While her dancing was wonderful, I didn’t care much for the character and found her to be too stuck-up and irritating to enjoy her presence on stage.

Kate Parr and Richard Winsor in Saturday Night Fever

Raphael Pace as Bobbie C was also great and his rendition of “Tragedy” was thoroughly enjoyable. One criticism, however, is that Bobbie’s character really is suffering here but I struggled to connect with this emotion when such a fun and upbeat song was encompassing such emotion. I generally found an emotional void with the show in general, in that the story didn’t affect me much. Tony is trying to win $1000 from a dance contest and I was neither bothered whether he won nor did I particularly care for any of the other characters or sub-plots. For example, the character of Annette played by Anna Campkin has unrequited love for Tony and expresses this through a rendition of “If I Can’t Have You” and again, I was enjoying this classic song too much to really feel for the character. I also found her general performance to be weak and she was drowned out by the chorus.

I can’t pinpoint why I didn’t connect with the story emotionally, perhaps this is a consequence of a jukebox musical where we love to hear the songs so much that we forget to connect with the story. However, I also think that in this production there were too many sub-plots that I didn’t know where to focus my attention, and some key things were glossed over and not given enough attention, causing me to not connect with the emotion.

Kate Parr and Richard Winsor in Saturday Night Fever

I’ve been debating with myself for the last 48 hours whether to give this show a three or four-star review. For its amazing dancing, feel-good factor and the fact that I sat throughout the whole thing with a smile on my face I’m tempted to give it four stars but its lack of connecting story leads me to a three-star review. In my head, I’ve given in 3.5 stars but I have listed it as four stars on here because I can’t work out how to have it show in the title as half a star!

My summary would be that if you’re looking for a great and fun evening at the theatre, this is the show for you! Dancing in the aisles at the end, this was the perfect show to wipe away a miserable day in Wales with some classic Bee Gees hits, but it’s not the show if you’re after a great story, that some other musical theatre offers. 

The cast of Saturday Night Fever

This production of Saturday Night Fever runs at Wales Millennium Centre until 1st December 2018 before starting a new leg of the tour in the UK in the new year.

PS see this Insta post for me loving life on the SNF stage!!!!


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