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Moonlight Amphitheatre The Place To Enjoy A Groovy & Out Of Sight Evening

By   /  September 15, 2023  /  1 Comment

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TR Robertson – The final musical for Moonlight Stage Productions 42nd summer season is the San Diego Premiere of the high energy, wonderfully choreographed “Saturday Night Fever- The Musical”. This 1998 juke box musical is based on the 1977 film “Saturday Night Fever”, picture and story by Nik Cohn. The film starred John Travolta and was the beginning of his rise in the movie industry. The musical was adapted for stage by Robert Stigwood in collaboration with Bill Oaks and features songs by The Bee Gees and several other artists. The musical premiered in London’s West End at the London Palladium in 1998, opening on Broadway on October 21, 1999, at the Minskoff Theatre where it ran for 501 performances.

Photos by Karli Cadel

The story of “Saturday Night Fever” is about a 19-year-old Italian American from Bay Bridge Brooklyn named Tony Manero who centers his life on Disco dancing at the local Disco club and his relationship with a former Bay Bridge young lady, Stephanie Mangano, who works in Manhattan as she tries to move up in the world and leave her former life in Bay Bridge. As Tony learns more and more about Stephanie, he begins to question his own life, his family relationships and the relationships he has with the friends he grew up with. Everything will come to a climax in a tragic accident one of his friends has and at the dance contest at the Disco club.

Nic Cohn, the father of rock writing and street culture, wrote the article “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night”, which later became the story developed for the movie, “Saturday Night Fever”. The Moonlight production does a masterful job of creating, on stage, memories for many in the audience of a time of bell bottoms, miniskirts, vibrant colors with sequins, and high boots combined with the up-tempo, catchy rhythmic beats from the orchestra belting out popular songs from the 70’s to go along with dances like the “Bump” and the “Hustle”. The Disco scene is said to have begun on Valentines Day in 1970 when David Manusco opened The Loft in New York City with everyone dancing to Disco Dancing moves that had started with the Philadelphia Sound of the late 60’s. From here Disco Clubs began popping up everywhere dancing to songs from The Bee Gees, ABBA, KC & the Sunshine Band, the Village People, Earth, Wind & Fire, Kool and the Gang, Chaka Khan and the “Queen of Disco” Donna Summer. The club everyone dreamed about getting into was Club 54 in Manhattan.

It is this scene of the 70’s that the story “Saturday Night Fever” tells on the Moonlight Stage under the Direction of John Vaughan, who also is the musicals choreographer. Music Director and Conductor Elan McMahan and the “Saturday Night Fever” Orchestra keeps the audience moving in their seats to songs by The Bee Gees, David Abbinanti, Kool & The Gang and several more.

The key to the musical is the incredible singing and dancing of the leads Brandon Keith Rogers as Tony Manero, Allison Spratt Pearce as Stephanie Mangano and Jenna Lea Rosen as Annette along with an amazing, large cast of 29 singers and dancers. Thunderous applause rose from the audience several times at the end of many of the dance scenes when the entire cast was on stage. The choreography on the dance moves of the Disco era was in full display on stage. Brandon Keith Rogers Brooklyn accent was spot on, and his voice is a great blend with Stephanie and his group of friends. Jenna Lea Rosen and Allison Spratt Pearce have beautiful voices that especially stood out on “If I Can’t Have You” (Jenna singing) and “What Kind of Fool” (Jenna singing). All three were amazing dancers as well.

Playing Tony’s friends were Jake Bradford as the trouble Bobby, Xavier Bush as Gus, Fisher Kaake as Joey and Ryan Perry Marks as Double J. The exuberant E.Y Washington played the Disco Club DJ. He also got the audience on their feet at the end of the show for a dance party. Playing the club owner is Vonetta Mixson whose powerful voice stood out on “Disco Inferno”, “Night Fever” and “More Than a Woman”. Ian Black plays Tony’s brother Frank Manero Jr., who is conflicted priest. Playing Tony’s strong willed Italian father is Douglas Henderson and playing Ton’s mother is Lisa Dyson. The large ensemble, along with many of the other members of the cast all take part in filling the stage with Disco dancers and an array of Disco dance moves.

Quick scene prop and set changes make this a fast-paced show to go along with the energetic music. Director John Vaughan’s Creative Team is made up of Stage Manager Stanley D. Cohen, Lighting Designer Jennifer Edwards, Sound Designer Jim Zadai, Scenic Designer Adam Koch, Hair & Wig Designer Peter Herman, Costume Coordinator Max Cadillac and Properties Coordinator Bonnie Durben. Steven Glaudini is the Producing Artistic Director and Mike Bradford the Managing Director. A special kudos to the sound techs as they quickly handled a momentary glitch in the loss of sound for the performer’s mics toward the end of the musical.

“Saturday Night Fever” is rated PG-13 for language, violence and adult themes. Starting time for the musical is 7:30 pm. The large opening night crowd’s response to many of the dance scenes and songs give testament to the popularity of disco music even today. This is a great ending to a successful summer season for Moonlight Stage Productions and a musical you should see that will bring back many memories if you happen to have lived during the 70’s.

Tickets are available at 760-724-2110 or go to www.moonlightstage.com. “Saturday Night Fever” will run until September 30 with performances on Wednesdays through Sundays each week.

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  • Published: 10 months ago on September 15, 2023
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  • Last Modified: September 15, 2023 @ 12:17 am
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1 Comment

  1. Ray Hogler says:

    This is an excellent review. It provides helpful information about the production and the cast members. I saw the show and this additional information put it all into context. Vista theatre is a major plus for the community.

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