June 24, 2015
It’s well-known that I wasn’t a big fan of the movie Saturday Night Fever. If you asked me about it, I’d go on a rant about what a complete idiot Tony was, and how John Travolta was the perfect idiot for the part. I hated everything about that movie and if you had the misfortune be near me when it came on TV, or if a Bee Gees song came on the radio, or even if you were a total stranger riding the bus and a guy wearing a white suit passed by on the street, you were likely to get an earful from me.
Well, all that changed some years ago. I’ve come to appreciate that movie and yes, I grudgingly admit that it is well-written. But Tony is still an idiot and Travolta still comes off like a jerk. (In real life. In the film he’s an idiot.)
Anyway, I live in the same area they filmed the movie, and if you want to read and hear me talk about it, check out this New York Minute and listen to me on the Flash Pulp podcast.
If you’ve been reading the last couple of Mr. Blog’s Tepid blogs, you’ve read about how I went on a Caribbean cruise and encountered no one but people from Brooklyn. (And some Caribbeans too, but that’s what you’d expect.) The cherry on top was the show they presented: Saturday Night Live, the Musical.
I must point out that the play had the same ratio of speech to song as the movie, so either they are both musicals or they are both not musicals. Either the movie or the play needs to be renamed.
You might find it strange that a Broadway play was staged on a cruise ship. Don’t be. The cruise ship had a very complete Broadway-style stage in the theater, complete with raising and lowering sections of the floor, complex sets, and state-of-the-art lighting and other equipment. In fact, there were only two differences between the ship’s stage and a Broadway theater stage. 1- It was a little smaller 2- Most Broadway stages do not gently sway on the ocean waves
So there I was, watching my Brooklyn neighborhood recreated in the waters off St. Maarten. There was Lenny’s Pizza, where I had ordered a pie from just a week or so before. There was the Verrazano Bridge, which I see from my window every day. There was the dance studio that was turned into a Chinese discount store a few years back that I pass all the time and never go into.
It was weird. If they had recreated the bagel store that I buy coffee from I would have been right at home.
As for the play itself, well, I wasn’t impressed. For example, many of the iconic Bee Gees songs were merely played in the background, and even worse, many weren’t in the show at all. And even worse? Some that were in the play were cover versions! What’s up with that, I ask, in a Brooklyn accent?
A play can’t do what a movie can, so many scenes were cut, or changed, and some of the choices were odd, like giving Bobby C a bigger role than in the film, and giving the DJ at the disco an absolutely huge part that dwarfed Tony and was, in all honesty, the plum role. He had the best lines, had all the fun parts, and even performed to the best song in the whole show, Disco Duck. (NOTE TO BEE GEES FANS: Yes, I know that almost any random Bee Gees song is better than Disco Duck, but given the shabby way the Bee Gees were treated in this play, Disco Duck was the best song,) And the guy who played Tony onstage was- and this is hard to believe but it’s true- even stupider than Travolta was in the movie. Either the guy deserves an award for his acting or he is the biggest idiot on the planet… or at least on the seas.
If you are familiar with Stop the Planet of The Apes, I Want to Get Off, you know pretty much how this play stacked up against the movie.
It was Saturday Night Fever minus some songs, without Tony’s iconic dance (yes, the pointy disco move- not there), and tarted up for the stage. By the time the entire cast came out at the end in sparkly sequined cliché outfits, I was feeling sick, but not from the sea.
They even changed the best line in the film. “He’s the horniest guy in Bay Ridge” became “He’s the biggest hound in town.” OK, maybe that isn’t the best line in the film, but it makes me laugh every time.
Overall, the play lost any of the grit and real feelings the film had, and just hit the highlights and major plot points without any real depth. On the other hand, the bar kept the drinks flowing so the audience was ready to applaud for anything. It would be nitpicky and petty of me to complain too much about a show that I saw, for free, on a cruise in the Caribbean. It would be small and snarky of me when I should instead realize just what a blessing it was to be in that theater, on that amazing ship, in such a beautiful part of the world.
But I am nitpicky and petty, small and snarky, and so I say that the play sucked.