It’s time to break out the bell-bottoms and polyester leisure suits and boogie with the Bee Gees. The Ogunquit Playhouse is closing out its regular 83rd season with the ultimate tribute to the ’70s, “Saturday Night Fever.”

The musical is based on the iconic 1977 film starring John Travolta as Tony Manero, a Brooklyn teenager who finds respect and relief from his dead-end life on the dance floor of the local disco. The movie catapulted Travolta to stardom on the silver screen, and revitalized the waning disco era.

London’s West End premiered the musical adaptation in 1998, which was followed on Broadway in 1999. Ogunquit Playhouse is one of the first regional theaters to stage the musical, with a rendition featuring an updated book and three new songs by David Abbinanti.

The production, directed by Keith Andrews, provides an entertaining flashback to the ’70s, with groovy costuming by Dustin Cross that captures the over-the-top flair of the decade. Big-voiced disco diva Candy, played by the fabulous Amma Osei, is unforgettable in a glittering red dress and two flowing jumpsuits designed by Cross, with matching glitter eye shadow and fun, outlandish wigs by Britt E. Griffith.

Scenic designer Adam Koch does a fine job showcasing the duality of the ’70s with a gritty overall set, contrasted by the glitz and glamour of the “2001 Odyssey” disco. Seven disco balls of various sizes mesmerizingly hang above the stage like planets, emphasizing the importance of the disco in Tony’s otherwise dismal universe.

Luke Hamilton stars as Tony. The recent University of Miami graduate looks the part, with a thin but muscular physique that he shows off to the audience while flexing in front of a mirror, dressed only in his underwear. He’s believable as a 19-year-old, copping an attitude and constantly preening, but he doesn’t have the natural-born swagger that Travolta brought to the role. And his pleasant tenor vocals and well-executed dancing tend to complement the cast, rather than make him stand out as the “king” of the disco floor.

The storyline draws parallels with “West Side Story,” trying to give depth to the dance-centered plot. Violence ensues as Tony and his “gang” of friends – Joey (Corey Mosello) and Double J (Michael Siktberg) – attack another gang member to avenge their friend Gus (Michael Carrasco), who has been hospitalized after a gang-related attack.

Subplots about Tony’s parents (Joe Gately and Joyce Nolen), his brother Frank (Brandyn Day) and his love interest Stephanie (Jenny Florkowski) also come into play, but the overall plot is too choppy to bring real emotion to the story.

Tony’s friend Bobby C, played by Jeremy Greenbaum, offers some of the production’s most poignant moments. “How Deep is Your Love” provides a touching moment as Bobby C duets with his girlfriend Pauline, played by Jillian Butterfield.

“If I Can’t Have You” is another standout song. Haley Hannah’s (Annette) voice is filled with agony and emotion as she sings about her character’s pain and unrequited love.

As expected, “Saturday Night Fever” has plenty of big dance numbers like “Stayin’ Alive” and “Disco Inferno.” Ogunquit’s talented cast executes the dance moves with precision, but Richard Hinds’ choreography lacks feeling. The musical is still entertaining to watch, and a fun blast to the past, but doesn’t fully capture the Bee Gees’ inspiring energy and overall wow factor.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. She can be contacted at:

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