A kaleidoscope of disco glitter balls? Check. Tony Manero in a gleaming white suit? Check. More Bee Gees hits than a 70s karaoke session? Check check check. All the iconic elements from the 1977 film are in place in Bill Kenwright’s big-hearted production, as well as a few extras: more songs, more dancing and a Bee Gees band performing live on stage. The only thing missing is a bit more grit and fiery passion in a show that’ll get you dancing, but never hits fever pitch.
Oh, and there’s no John Travolta. Alas. Instead, Richard Winsor brings his own qualities to the role of Tony Manero, a brilliant dancer stuck working in a paint shop in 70s Brooklyn. Winsor’s Manero comes across as a thoroughly nice and painfully vulnerable young man. The scenes at home with Manero’s abusive father (Phillip Aiden) lend depth to a production that can feel stuck halfway between a hen night extravaganza and something much darker and more considered.
Winsor also brings the precision of a professional – one who has danced lead roles for Matthew Bourne – to his performance. The disco numbers, choreographed with winking humour by Bill Deamer, suffer slightly for this professionalism. It all feels just a bit too tidy: dancing to admire rather than really lose yourself in.
It’s the newly devised dance numbers, particularly between Winsor’s Manero and Olivia Fines’ Stephanie Mangano, that really impress. When Manero and Mangano practise together in the studio, there’s a flair to their dancing that feels liberating. And it’s only in Manero’s final scene, when Winsor is able to truly express himself with some yearning contemporary dance, that this Fever begins to burn.