When I knew that Saturday Night Fever The Musical was coming to Singapore, I was both excited as well as apprehensive. You see, next to a slew of family-oriented musicals (think Sound of Music, Mary Poppins etc), Saturday Night Fever was THE other movie that has shaped my growing years. The gritty story of a young man strutting the streets of Brooklyn and the dance floor in search of his own identity was a welcome change for me – this other young man at the cusp of his teenagehood. In short, when I wasn’t singing ‘Doe-A-Deer’; I was strutting to ‘Stayin’ Alive’, combing my hair like John Travolta and grooving to every Bee Gees song on my cassette player.
So, the question in my mind (and perhaps yours) was how good is this musical compared to the iconic Travolta movie that galvanized Disco in entertainment history? Given that Travolta himself may no longer fit into his disco outfits and the world will not get to hear the falsetto harmonies of the Bee Gees LIVE anymore, save for some serious divine intervention, I dare say this musical does the original movie proud. Here’s why.
First, the leads: What do you get when you put a seasoned stage actor who has danced for the mega stars like Beyonce, Madanna and J Lo to front an iconic dance movie that ingited the disco revolution? You get a sizzling night out reliving the dazzling disco scene of the 70s…right here in Singapore at the Mastercard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands.
Brandon Rubendall acts, sings and dances the role of Tony Manero, a role that shot John Travolta to superstardom in the 1970s. Accompanied by songs written by the legendary Bee Gees, Rubendall with his sleek and cheeky dance moves, reprised the role well – no mean feat considering that Saturday Night Fever is one of the world’s most iconic movies. Naturally being an accomplished actor-dancer himself helps. In fact, Rubendall shared in an interview, that Manero’s life challenges mirror some of his own.
Hence, I was relieved and deeply satisfied to watch Rubendall portray Manero with great sensitivity and depth (right down to the insecure idiosyncrasies portrayed by Travolta’s Manero). But chief of all was Rubendall’s excellent dance moves – from his kicks to the turns and even the unforgettable Saturday Night Fever ‘pose’ with index finger pointing skywards. Honestly, I didn’t expect to watch this musical LIVE let alone done so well by Rubendall.
Then there’s Jenna Rubaii, an experienced stage and screen actress who plays the role of Stephanie Mangano, Tony’s dance partner and love interest. Gutsy, determined and a straight talker, Jenna embodied the feisty Mangano well. In fact, in the words of acclaimed director Bobby Garcia, ‘ When Brandon and Jenna walked into the audition room, I knew immediately that they were Tony and Stephanie’.
Supporting the two leads is a strong and energetic cast from the US and Philippines along with a ‘star-studded’ production team including multi-award winning director, Bobby Garcia, Tony award winning set designer, David Gallo and Broadway choreographer, Vince Pesce among others.
Driving the entire musical with its infectious disco beats and bringing the house down is the band belting out well-loved Bee Gees disco tunes. For me (and I’m sure for all the disco lovers out there), it was a real treat hearing these Bee Gees tunes performed LIVE, albeit from the orchestra pit. Also worth of mention is the sizzling Carla Guevara-Laforteza, whose powerful vocals as the club singer was instrumental in transforming the theatre into a discoteque.
But it’s not all just hyped-up song and dance. After all, this is a story of how a young 19 year-old and his contemporaries grew up in underclass Brooklyn, searching for their dreams, love and acceptance while battling personal demons and insecurities. Given this context centered around disenchanted youths, you can expect sprinkling of profanities and sexual innuendos thrown in (so take my advice, make it a date night and leave the young kids at home).
Saturday Night Fever not only has elements which we can all identify with – youthful idealism clashing with the harsh realities of life, the high octane disco dances and soaring, yet sensitive vocals of the cast makes this one night out you’ll not forget – an atmosphere that the movie itself can never replicate. For that, it is one musical truly worth experiencing.
SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER THE MUSICAL
Show Dates: Friday, 25 September 2015 to Sunday, 4 October 2015
Show Times: Tuesday to Friday 8pm; Saturdays 2pm and 8pm; Sundays 1pm and 6pm
Venue: Sands Theatre, MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands
Tickets priced from S$95 are available from SISTIC, BASEentertainment and MarinaBaySands websites. Or you can call Sistic at +65 6688 8826. Tickets are also sold at all Marina Bay Sands Box Offices (Museum, Theatres, MBS SkyPark, Retail Mall and Hotel Tower 1 Lobby).