Cast members of “Saturday Night Fever” on stage at the Ogunquit Playhouse.

Cast members of “Saturday Night Fever” on stage at the Ogunquit Playhouse.

Saturday Night Fever, The Musical” is the now playing at the Ogunquit Playhouse. The show is based on the Paramount/KSO film and the story is by Nik Cohen with music mostly by the Bee Gees. The show brings the audience back to “the days of yesteryear” … or at least to the 1970s, with its polyester clothes and relentless disco beat – the dominant pop musical style of the time.

The story is set in the ’70s in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, New York, in a blue collar and predominantly Italian-American neighborhood. The young men featured in the play seem like family. As one character observed, “we’re cousins,” and another countered, “He’s Italian and all Italians are cousins!!”

While the central theme of the show is about a dance contest at the 2001 disco club, there are several other plots in the show. The central character, Tony (Luke Hamilton) is pressured by Annette (Haley Hannah) to be her dance partner and her boyfriend as well. Tony meets Stephani (Jenny Florkowski) and is immediately attracted to her as a dance partner and also as a girlfriend and soon dumps Annette.

Other plot points involve Tony’s dysfunctional family, his gang of male friends and the accidental death of one of the character s, Bobby. Bobby (Jeremy Greenbaum) loses his life trying to save Annette, who was drunk and suicidal. Another theme in the story is the idea of changing ethnic neighborhoods, a theme explored perhaps more successfully in Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story.”

Luke and Stephanie win the dance contest but Luke realizes that the contest was rigged and gives the trophy to a Puerto Rican couple who were also contestants. At the end, Luke and Stephanie make up and there is another rousing production number that brings the audience to its feet, stomping and clapping rhythmically.

There were a host of outstanding performances to credit here. Amma Osei was terrific and her singing of “Nights on Broadway” was memorable. Jeremy Greenbaum has a resonant baritone and the intensity in his singing was most evident in his rendition of “How Deep Is Your Love.” Haley Hannah almost stopped the show with her singing of “If I Can’t Have You.” Jenny Florkowski was convincing as the girlfriend who wanted to rise above her neighborhood. She wanted to find a man who was both “interesting” as well as intellectual. Like all of the performers in the show, she danced extremely well and sang as well as she danced. Her performance of a song by David Abbinanti called “I know the Type” was moving. The solo dancing by G. O. Osborne and Clavon Hampton in the dance competition was more than outstanding. (They really should have won.) Justin Columbo made the most of his role when he sang “You Should Be Dancing.” I have mixed feelings about Luke Hamilton. I want to emphasize that his singing and dancing were nothing short of exceptional. However, I did not feel that he was Tony as much as he was effectively playing a part in a play. The real heroes of this new production were the cast of singer/dancers and especially the choreography by Richard Hinds. The dancing by the cast was easily worth the price of admission.

The effect of the singing, dancing and the performance of a marvelous group of instrumentalists under the direction of Sonny Paladino made for an exciting time at the theater. If one lived through the time frame of the show, the music alone would bring back memories. If you did not, you would get a good idea of the spirit of those times. The show continues at the Playhouse through Oct. 25 and is regrettably the last show of the 83rd season. It is also the 10th season under the fine stewardship of Bradford Kenney, the artistic director of the Playhouse.

— Dr. Gold is a composer/conductor and an arts reviewer of the Journal Tribune.

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