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"Saturday Night Fever"

"Saturday Night Fever" has a beat -- but no pulse.


I have never understood the fascination of stage re-creations of movies or movie musicals, although a tenuous argument could be made for the reverse procedure. What is to be gained by reducing the mobility, scope, and technological proficiency of the camera to the confines of the stage? Especially so if the stage version is in every department in the hands (and feet) of inferior talents. The only excuse for Saturday Night Fever is that now the trivia hounds can debate which is the more execrable, it or Footloose. On the other hand, Footloose seems to have gained a foothold, so, if there are enough desperadoes among the public, Fever, too, may land on its (flat) feet.

One hardly knows where to start: the footling adaptation (really transcription) by Nan Knighton, the pedestrian direction and choreography by Arlene Phillips, the hit-or-miss scenery by the usually dependable Robin Wagner, the tiresomeness of the antiquated disco music by the Bee Gees, or the humdrum cast? I envy no one who must fill the shoes of John Travolta, but James Carpinello of the faintly goony face, perfunctory dancing, run-of-the-mill personality, and intermittent acting merely puts his foot in it most of the time. Nor is there anyone else of real interest, although the unfortunately named Orfeh at least makes a game stab at the spurned Annette.

Even the costumes, for which the London designer Andy Edwards was joined by New York's Suzy Benzinger, aren't much fun. Just compare the yellow dress worn by the pallid heroine (Paige Price) to that sported by the incandescent Deborah Yates in Contact -- never mind the persons filling them out -- and you'll see what I mean. One line from the show will serve as its epitaph: "My grandmother kicks higher than that, and she is dead."


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