Originating and performing the role of Flo Manero in the North American world premiere production of Saturday Night Fever through August 12 at Merry-Go-Round Playhouse in Auburn, New York. Part of the 2015 Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival, the production has received critical response in Broadwayworld.com, the Syracuse New Times, and Syracuse.com.
MERRY-GO-ROUND BOOGIES DOWN
by Bill DeLapp - Wednesday, August 5th, 2015
Merry-Go-Round's 'Saturday Night Fever' boasts high energy and tempo
Auburn’s Merry-Go-Round Playhouse scores a coup with its world premiere of Saturday Night Fever, in a new North American production from author Sean Cercone and lyricist David Abbinanti that runs through Aug. 12.
Cercone has reshaped material from the stage version of Saturday Night Fever, which has been kicking around in national tours since 1998. The Bee Gees’ throbbing soundtrack, taken from the 1977 disco movie that catapulted John Travolta to stardom, has been largely retained, including “Night Fever” and “Staying Alive.” Three new Abbinanti originals have been added to the framework, although they don’t quite mesh with the Bee Gees’ dance-floor standards.
Despite an abundance of platform shoes and bell bottoms, this Fever feels like a riff on West Side Story with a wocka-wocka beat. Cercone’s adaptation hews fairly close to the movie, although the coarse language and raunchy ripostes have been tamped down, all to chart the coming-of-age saga of Tony Manero (played by Sam Edgerly), a 19-year-old paint store employee in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge section.
Tony blows his money every weekend with his dead-end buddies at the discotheque, where he really shines with his ultra-cool hoofing. For an upcoming dance contest with a lucrative cash prize as an incentive, Tony seems resigned to enlist his hotsy ex-girlfriend Annette (Maddy Apple) as his dance partner. But Tony is more interested in Stephanie (Jessica Lea Patty), a dancer who projects an aura of unattainable mystique.
Director-choreographer Brett Smock hits Fever’s sweet spot with pulsating, epic-scale dance numbers that skillfully time-warp patrons back to the velvet-rope era. Aiding Smock’s funky flashback are Stanley A. Meyer’s scenic design, which features a stylized backdrop of metallic stairways and girders that double for the disco scenes as well as the Brooklyn Bridge, and music director Corinne Aquilina’s dynamic orchestrations.
MGR’s Fever occasionally feels like a work in progress, however, with several dramatic scenes lacking the needed punch. Cercone’s thematic reworking of some Bee Gees tracks is also hit and miss: “If I Can’t Have You” becomes a slowed-down ballad of unrequited love, winningly warbled by Maddy Apple’s Annette, although Tony’s rendition of “Tragedy” following one character’s accidental death seems obvious. Oddly, the male cast members aren’t sporting blown-dry pompadours; during the Carter administration, the guys’ hairdos were the poufy equals of the ladies.
On stage from nearly start to finish, Sam Edgerly maintains both a Travolta-esque accent and a polyester swagger for his naïve Tony. Jessica Lea Patty mines the complexities of her Stephanie, a gofer for a talent agency who carries off herself with an air of self-importance. Yet Stephanie is closer to Tony’s blue-collar roots than she lets on, especially when her dialogue lapses into Norm Crosby-style malapropisms.
In supporting roles, Maddy Apple lends sympathy for her man-crazy Annette; Levi Morger is believably uptight as Tony’s older brother, Frank, who has renounced the priesthood; Luke Yellin is emotionally confused as the most troubled member of Tony’s posse; and Syracuse University Drama Department faculty member Celia Madeoy ably sidesteps the clichés of Tony’s heavily Catholic mom. Madeoy even boogies “The Bump” during the curtain call!
Theatre Review: ‘Saturday Night Fever’ at the Merry – Go – Round Playhouse
Broadway in the Finger Lakes at the Merry – Go –Round Playhouse in Auburn, New York is once again bringing local audiences a stellar night of dancing, toe-tapping music, and exquisite sets. The present production is none other than the US regional premiere of Saturday Night Fever, based on 1977 classic John Travolta film.
Those looking for a good night out to see some outstanding dancing and powerhouse vocals from superb actors are likely to find it in this production. Sean Cercone and David Abbinanty’s script introduces us to a nineteen year-old named Tony Manero (Sam Edgerly) from Brooklyn who spends his weekends dancing at the local disco hangout. Dancing is the one thing that Manero feels like he excels at. When he’s dancing at the club, people can’t take their eyes off of his phenomenal moves. This is meaningful for Tony because his family – mainly his parents (Nick Addeo and Celia Madeoy) – was never the type that gave words of encouragement. The parents only admire their golden child, Frank Jr. (Levi Morger), now a priest. Like most artists, Tony Manero uses his dancing as a means of escape from some of the more difficult realities in life. At the club, he spots an amazing dancer named Stephanie (Jessica Lea Patty) who he convinces to partner with him in a dance competition at the 2001 Odyssey dance club. Luckily Stephanie finds Tony “interesting” and she accepts the offer to dance with him, which leads to much more. Stephanie realizes that Tony is not only “interesting,” but that she in fact loves him.
The cast features some very strong leads. They have out of sight vocals and groovy dance moves. Sam Edgerly captures the coolness of Tony Manero perfectly. He struts about the stage with style and charm. He belts out such Bee Gees songs such as “Stayin’ Alive” with such confidence and reveals so much emotion and heartbreak in “Tragedy/ Top of Your Game (Reprise).” Jessica Lea Patty nails it as the self-absorbed Stephanie, a girl looking to move up in the world. Her beautiful soprano voice rings out in “What Kind of Fool,” which also showcases her wonderful acting skills. Also, there are plenty of opportunities for her to show off her graceful dance moves in the classic song “More Than a Woman.”
Sponsor Other standout performers are Casey Garvin as Double J, Corey Mosello as Joey, DJ Petrosino as Gus, and Luke Yellin as Bobby C. Portraying four of Tony’s buddies, they are all fabulous dancers and provide great comedic relief during some slow-paced moments on stage. Yellin, in particular, has a standout moment, along with Edgerly and Patty, on “Stuck.” Maddy Apple – portraying Annette, Tony’s wannabe girlfriend – makes the most of her solo moment on stage with “If I Can’t Have You” and she has remarkable facial expressions to boot. Natalie Weiss, as Candy – a singer at the 2001 Odyssey dance club – gives everything you would expect to see from a disco diva. Amazing stage presence, confidence, and true, perfect singing on such Bee Gees hits as “Night Fever” and “Night on Broadway,” Ms. Weiss is a definite highlight.
The entire ensemble has exceptional dance moves. Director Brett Smock brings the best out of his cast.
The artistic elements are also highly memorable and, at times, take center stage because of the creativity of set designer Stanley A. Meyer. The red “curtain” splashed with graffiti, 70’s fashion and styles, and pop culture images serves as the main piece that breaks apart to reveal different scene changes and settings. The way that the set moves during scene changes, and the level of detail the designer employed to create it, is something to admire during some of the slower moments onstage. The lighting by Ben Hagen also helps keep the show moving along. Costumes by Tiffany Howard are exactly what you would envision in a disco nightclub including bell-bottoms, jumpsuits, and the iconic white suit.
The Merry- Go –Round Playhouse has once again provided a fine time to the audiences attending the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival. Since this is a US Regional Premiere production of Saturday Night Fever, there may be some script tweaks in the future. Those looking for a good night out to see some outstanding dancing and powerhouse vocals from superb actors are likely to find it in this production.
Tony (Sam Edgerly) feels blamed by his parents Frank Sr. (Nick Addeo) and Flo (Celia Madeoy) for his brother's decisions in the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival's production of "Saturday Night Fever" at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse through Aug. 12, 2015. Photo courtesy of Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival/Bjorn Bolinder.
Finger Lakes Festival's 'Saturday Night Fever' visually stunning (Review)
Tony Curulla | Contributing writer By Tony Curulla | Contributing writer The Post-Standard
on July 25, 2015 at 1:58 PM, updated July 25, 2015 at 1:59 PM
This is the show that highlights the talents and training of dancers and choreographers.
It seems fitting that the world premiere of the new North American production of "Saturday Night Fever", written by Sean Cercone and David Abbinanti, should take place at a summer theater festival such as the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival in Auburn.
The mere "heat" and pace of the show screams summer, as does the energy and vitality of the 16-member cast and the 14-member dance ensemble. It's a big show with virtual non-stop kinetics that have been excellently harnessed to purpose by director and choreographer Brett Smock.
Right off the bat, we get excellent visual grounding through the workings of Stanley A. Meyer's inventive and multi-functional set design that acts like a moving billboard that's filled with photographs, signs, and headlines delineating the place and time. We're in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, NY, and it's 1977.
Once musical director Corinne Aquilina cues the tight nine-piece pit orchestra for "Stayin' Alive" by the Brothers Gibb, acoustics blend with visuals, and we know we're in that place at that time as scads of dancers emerge from everywhere for our first taste of "Saturday Night Fever: The Stage Show".
Even folks who haven't seen the now-iconic 1977 film starring John Travolta as Tony Manero probably think they have seen it because of the seeming ubiquity of the Bee Gee soundtrack that came to identify a genuine cultural milieu known fondly and not-so-fondly as "The Disco Era".
The story is basically about an individual, Tony Manero (Sam Edgerly), a son of the Italian neighborhood, who sees his life going beyond the confines of the neighborhood and the individuals who inhabit it (not unlike the Tony in "West Side Story"). His older brother, Frank Jr. (Levi Morger) had "escaped" by becoming a not-so-happy Catholic priest. Tony's escape will be the one thing he does so well: dance.
And dance he does. Some shows are actors' shows, some are singers' shows. This is the show that highlights the talents and training of dancers and choreographers. Even when Edgerly is moving about the stage in a dramatic scene, his movements have the fluidity of a well-oiled machine.
For most of the show, Tony is paired dramatically and kinetically with Stephanie (Jessica Lea Patty) despite the outward affection of an old flame, Annette (Maddy Apple), who Tony rejects in favor of Stephanie's dance-floor capabilities that just might take him farther in the dance world and out of the neighborhood. Patty combines terrific movement with an independent "take-no-prisoners" attitude that just adds stage cachet to her multi-dimensional character.
Double J (Casey Garvin), Gus (DJ Petrosino), Joey (Corey Mosello), and Bobby C (Luke Yellin) are Tony's buddies with whom he takes refuge from his problems when he's not dancing. The foursome do some nice turns themselves and especially in a "Jive Talkin'" song and dance number, employing relatively simple, but precise, movements on an urban basketball court.
Natalie Weiss' slow, soulful rendition of the Bee Gee classic "Nights on Broadway" was, for me, the best of the Bee Gee numbers, and I thought the most interesting song in the whole show (a non-Bee Gee composition by David Abbinanti) was a stellar performance of "Stuck" by Bobby, Tony and Stephanie which served to further underscore the dramatic theme.
As good as the movement is, it may be trumped by the visuals of Meyer's set design. Its usefulness for the variety of scenes, combined with the seeming complications of stunning visuals makes for several locations to be harbored in one tight structure. We go from bedrooms to dining rooms, to balconies to a multi-level disco club, and even to the Verrazano Bridge (Tony's route out of Brooklyn), where tom-foolery meets tragedy, and all occurring on that one set. It's an example of masterful simplicity in design, to tell a story, that you can't experience in any medium apart from live theater.
Length of Show: Two hours, ten minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.
Attendance: Nearly full-house two days after opening.
Family Guide: Middle-school age and older will appreciate, especially dancers.
Info: The Merry-Go-Round Playhouse presents "Saturday Night Fever" as part of the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival from July 22 through August 12 at the theater in Emerson Park, Owasco (Auburn, NY). For tickets and other information: 1-800-457-8897 and www.FingerLakesMTF.com.
Review: You can dig 'Saturday Night Fever' at Merry-Go-Round
July 23, 2015 12:15 am • David Wilcox | david.wilcox@lee.
I didn't want to like "Saturday Night Fever."
I wasn't alive during the '70s, so I experienced the decade more selectively than people who were. For me, they're the time of "Star Wars" and The Sex Pistols, not John Travolta, bellbottoms and Barry freakin' Gibb.
Regardless, I found myself a little swept off my feet by the Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival's world premiere of a new North American adaptation of the 1977 classic. It's far from perfect, but it's got legs.
The first thing audiences will see at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse will be a red-hued collage of '70s photographs and signage: graffiti, ringer tank tops, Dutch boy haircuts. But the images don't just set the scene, they frame it. Strafing and rising, the panels that form the collage square off different parts of the proscenium.
The effect is subject to where you're sitting: From my vantage point in the fourth row back, the topmost panel clipped the heads of the performers in one scene. But the framing device is impressively coordinated nonetheless. It also lends scene changes an analog feel, and is it ever the appropriate decade for that.
Isolating different blocks of the stage is made necessary by "Saturday Night Fever's" towering set: an arcing, twisting jungle gym of trusses that easily evokes the Brooklyn Bridge. By using all of the proscenium, the first scene in the show's main setting, the Odyssey 2001 discotheque, shows why: Each of the several conversations taking place in all corners of the set needs a few seconds to source.
Sean Cercone's raw, streetwise script also takes some time to find its rhythm. A few uncertain laughs and flat dramatic notes trip up early scenes of Tony Manero's (Sam Edgerly) daily family squabbling and nightly reign of the Odyssey in 1977 Bay View, Brooklyn. By the end of the first act, though, the show had less trouble keeping the beat, and by the second, it was locked in.
On the stage, Edgerly leads the effort, channeling his charisma and dancing talent into a Manero who's at once memorable and distinct from John Travolta's star-making turn. As Stephanie, Jessica Lea Patty is game on the dance floor and a fun partner at flirting, zeroing in on just the right mix of charm and condescension for her goodhearted social climber character.
Manero's buds (Casey Garvin, DJ Petrosino, Corey Mosello and Luke Yellin) are lively support, too, stringing together some skillful basketball choreography on "Jive Talkin'" before bringing it to an almost chilling halt when they encounter a rival crew member. Come to think of it, programming "Saturday Night Fever" and "West Side Story" so close to each other was quite the coincidence.
The leads and the show's ensemble realize festival Producing Artistic Director Brett Smock's choreography with seductive flash, and the Corinne Aquilina-directed orchestra gives oomph to The Bee Gees' instantly recognizable soundtrack of "Stayin' Alive," "Night Fever" and more.
With its roll-out at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse and elsewhere, surely Cercone and David Abbinanti's "Saturday Night Fever" will be tweaked and tightened. I, for one, hope the lights that signal entrance to the Odyssey 2001 don't flare so blindingly at future performances. But even the baby steps of this diagonally pointing love letter to the '70s deserve your eyes and ears.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna go play "Space Invaders."
If you go
WHAT: "Saturday Night Fever"
WHEN: Continues through Aug. 12
WHERE: Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, Emerson Park, East Lake Road, Owasco