‘Saturday Night’ achiever

‘70s disco saga has slick sirens, peacock playboys


The bacchanalian spirit of the ‘70s, along with the harsh realities of the working-class at the end of the age of prosperity, clash but transform into the glamorous, yet wanting world of “Saturday Night Fever” in director Patrick Campbell’s vision of the disco-era anthem.

At the CM Performing Arts Center in Oakdale, Campbell’s Bay Ridge Brooklyn alternates between the decaying nuclear family of the Manero household and the glitzy promise of the 2001 Odyssey night club.

Scenic designer Joshua Warner developed a hazy color palette, evocative of the smoking of the time and also the general vibe of New York City. Backdrops are earth-toned but not natural and forgiving, as their organic matter belies a weakness to the elements of social change that Campbell highlights skillfully with amping up the tension when the music isn’t meant for dance.

Keeping up his impeccable track record of hitting the mark exactly and then some, Ronald R. Green III’s costume and wig designs complemented all the background and talent points, embodying each costume as an actual person.

From paint store aprons to the iconic white suit, Green designed realistic, but still hyperbolic presentations of the characters.

Carissa Navarra’s  (Stephanie Mangano) “What Kind of Fool” and Camilla Montoya’s (Annette) “If I Can’t Have You” were both testaments to the changing stations of women at the time with their sultry pleadings and swelling bravados.

Navarra’s chameleon-like acting skills gave Stephanie such dimension as both the unattainable uptown girl (i.e., the woman Tony first sees at 2001 Odyssey and practicing ballet at the studio) and pathetic social climber batting out of her league when we get to the glorified Manhattan and her sugar daddy.

Montoya’s delicate and giddy portrayal of Annette is soul-crushingly dismissed by Tony’s lack of affection, and her intoxication on the bridge is a profound display of pent-up grief and rage. Similarly, Montoya’s singing voice also starts in quiet repose, then builds to a show-stopping boldness.

Mike Shapiro as Tony Manero is brilliant casting as he embodied everything about the ‘70s peacock. Magnetic while dancing, Shapiro’s direct eye contact and gaze upon the audience is all of the Gatsby charm needed to see why “the crowd parts like the Red Sea” at his arrival at 2001 Odyssey.

The character is difficult because the comic element can undermine the deep emotional arc Tony undergoes, but Shapiro handles this task masterfully, making the audience fall in love with his vanity and insecurity. Shapiro and Paul Faggione at the dinner table is one of those treasured moments of near slapstick when Papa Manero hits his son’s well-coiffed hair.

Nick Aspris (Bobby C) and Pauline (Isabella Cannone) are tragic lovers and even more so, because they spend most of the play earnestly trying to do better.

Aspris and Shapiro also have palpable fraternal chemistry as they bond on a deeper level than their goombah friends, played hilariously by Michael Krulder, Keith Jones, and Nicholas Lucurto. In a type of Three Stooges mix, the three are the dumbest wise guys on the block, but also have some of the best dance moves.

The dancing in “Saturday Night Fever” is beyond literary and literal words. Choreographer Melissa Rapelje’s vision for the over-the-top dance numbers and intimate duos all had the mark of a battle-hardened craftswoman who knows the intricacies of foot placement, but also the magic of spectacle. Watching her choreography, and the immensely talented cast carry it out, is theater at its best and brightest. 


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