Dig out your platform shoes, short shorts, polyester suits and Bee Gees records. Maine State Music Theatre is boogying through its 60th anniversary season with a rad rendition of “Saturday Night Fever” that had the audience feeling like dancing opening night.

The production captures the disco vibe of the late 1970s with precision choreography from director Mark Martino and funkadelic costuming from Michael Bottari and Ronald Case. It’s definitely a blast from the past as the cast and ensemble strut and shake to such iconic songs as “Stayin’ Alive” and “You Should be Dancing,” performed with ’70s swagger by musical director Jason Wetzel and his stellar eight-piece orchestra.

“Saturday Night Fever,” the musical, normally clocks in around 2 hours, 40 minutes, but Martino has pared it down to approximately 2½ hours, with intermission. The result is a more streamlined production that delivers the energy of disco fever, while touching on the underlying uncertainty and economic instability of our country in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. The plaintive wail of a lone guitar in the “Prologue” nicely sets the tone for the moving aspects of the story and score, interspersed between the fun-loving disco songs and electric dance numbers.

Jacob Tischler steps into the “disco king” shoes of Tony Manero, originated by John Travolta in the 1977 film version. Tony and his friends Joey (Anthony J. Gasbarre III), Double J (Casey Shane), Gus (Nic Casaula) and Bobby C (Drew Carr) live for the weekend, when they can dance at the disco and escape their dead-end jobs.

Jacob Tischler as Tony and Alexandra Matteo as Stephanie dazzle in “Saturday Night Fever.” Photo by Aaron Flacke

Tischler looks the part and walks the walk as the jive-talking 19-year-old boy from Brooklyn, and he sure can shake his booty. The versatile dancer nails Martino’s vibrant choreography, whether his character is strutting across the stage with his friends in “Boogie Shoes” or dancing with his classically trained love interest, Stephanie Mangano (Alexandra Matteo), on “More Than A Woman.”

The lithe Matteo is a firecracker as Stephanie, a sassy Brooklyn girl hellbent on escaping to upper-class Manhattan. She is the picture of grace when she dances and a powerhouse vocalist who shakes the theater with emotion as she belts out “What Kind of Fool.”

Carr and Christina Carlucci standout as Bobby C and his girlfriend Pauline, joining Tischler and Matteo for a gripping performance of “Stuck.” Mariah MacFarlane is also nicely highlighted as Annette on “If I Can’t Have You,” passionately lamenting her character’s unrequited love for Tony.

Plot lines, like Tony’s dad (Michael Gorman) being out of work and his brother Frank Jr. (Frankie Paparone) leaving the priesthood, give the musical depth and emotion, but there’s plenty of glitz, glam and dancing to keep the energy level high. The cast is on fire as they boogie to “Disco Inferno,” sung by the 2001 Odyssey disco DJ Monty (Michael Buchanan), and the female cast is pure fun as they let their hands do the talking on “Jive Talkin’.”

The dance-off in Act 2 offers awe-inspiring dancing, with performance intern Michael Olaribigbe and Bria Jené Williams (as Chester and Shirley) taking on Tischler and Matteo with high-flying acrobatics in “Open Sesame.” Dan Bob Higgins and Carissa Gaughran (as Cesar and Maria) heat up the stage with salsa dancing in “Salsation.”

Of course, what would “Saturday Night Fever” be without a little self-deprecating humor? Michael Peter Deeb and agile performance interns Elisabeth Christie, Stevie Ann Mack, Lauren McDonald and Melaina Corey Rairamo are an absolute riot as Pete’s jazz class, going above and beyond to look like no-talent dancers.

Maine State Music Theatre’s “Saturday Night Fever” is a time machine to the era of disco balls and “night fever.” Whether you’re in need of a little escape from life or just love the infectious vibe of the ’70s, hop on board and join the cast for a wild ride. As The Bee Gees famously sang, “You should be dancing, yeah.”

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. Contact her at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @ahboyle

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