Staying alive? Barely

Saturday Night Fever

London Palladium

The new stage version of is not so much a musical as a marketing manoeuvre. As an attempt to cash in on the mysterious retro- rush to the 70s and to exploit the Travolta-connection, the show has its own kind of cynical coherence. But it dismally fails to rework the movie on its own theatrical terms - a fact that's as plain as the mikes which curl round the faces of all the principals, making them look like a convention of displaced air traffic controllers.

It's an odd proposition - a stage musical developed from a film that, despite the soundtrack and the disco dancing, went out of its way not to be a musical in the first place. None of the characters sings in the original : The maddeningly addictive Bee Gees numbers - "Meaningless songs in very high voices" as the spoof-group The Heebee Geebees put it - was like a benign infection pulsing through the veins of the 70s working class Brookliners whose only escape from the dull routine of directionless jobs was the tribal rapture of the dance floor at the weekend.

From the first scene, you can tell that this theatrical adaptation is going to have to ditch precisely what gives the material its dramatic tension. Instead of the pent-up quality Travolta conveyed as he walked down the street in that bouncing strut - paint can in hand, Bee Gees music revolving in his head - Adam Garcia lopes on to what quickly becomes a full song-and-dance company rendition of "Stayin' Alive". The energy you need to feel can only be properly channelled and discharged in the confines of the club is released out there in the street. The musical comedy convention that you're free to launch into unfettered self-expression any place any time is about as useful to the atmosphere of this story as a crack in a pressure cooker.

Hence the lack of much euphoric lift in Arlene Phillips' big choreographic set-pieces - a pulsing parade of the hot pants, platform heels, and multiple polyester atrocities that make the 70s fashion revival feel like one of the crueller tricks time has pulled on us lately. Garcia, who goes through the moves with indomitable efficiency, doesn't dance as though Tony's sense of identity depended on it. He's a bland, muscular pretty-boy who looks as if he'd be happier partnering "Barbie" than Anita Louise Combe's impressive Stephanie, the uppity, underlyingly insecure, miss who has little right to the airs she affects. You need to believe that, in contrast to her, Tony, with his stubborn pride and inarticulate sincerity, is somehow genuinely above the surroundings in which he's stuck. But, from the outset, Garcia comes across as just a passing cultural tourist in this milieu. And for all of Phillips' promise that she would bring out "the very dark, very sexist, very racist" undertones of the story, the scrappy dramatic scenes have the perfunctoryness of the filler in a poor conventional musical.

Which is what, with notable success, this version of mostly impersonates. It doesn't even rate on the it's-so-bad-it's-good scale, though there is one blissfully naff sequence where Simon Greiff's Bobby, the nerdy little loser who has got his girlfriend pregnant, gets to holler out the Bee Gees song "Tragedy" in one of those grandiosely self-pitying and tonsil-revealing moments without which no modern musical is quorate. You wonder if, in plumping for "tragedy", he's got quite the right genre.

Paul Taylor

Arts and Entertainment
books
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
people
Voices
Nigel Farage arrives for a hustings event at The Oddfellows Hall in Ramsgate on Tuesday
voicesA defection that shows who has the most to fear from the rise of Ukip
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Life and Style
Brave step: A live collection from Alexander McQueen whose internet show crashed because of high demand
fashionAs the collections start, Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    IT Teacher

    £22000 - £33000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: ICT TeacherLeedsRandstad ...

    Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL)

    Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL) Su...

    Junior SQL DBA (SQL Server 2012, T-SQL, SSIS) London - Finance

    £30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior SQL DBA...

    C# Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, MVC-4, HTML5) London

    £35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Web Develop...

    Day In a Page

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
    She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

    Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

    The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
    American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

    Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

    James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
    Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

    Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

    Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution