Saturday Night Fever at Sydney's Lyric Theatre
The iconic hit musical Saturday Night Fever is back and with all the songs you already love, plus the addition of some more extraordinary 70s classics, there is absolutely no way you aren't guaranteed to have a good night out at this show. Filled with more than 25 dance numbers and featuring the likes of Australia’s original disco queen, Marcia Hines, as well as star vocalists Paulini, Bobby Fox, Natalie Conway and Nana Matapule, the only thing that may be even cooler than the seriously bright disco floor, are the incredible vocals. Led by rising star, Euan Doidge, and the gorgeous Melanie Hawkins the dances are intense and the Ensemble cast features some of Australia's best and most employed commercial dancers. Needless to say, it's going to be fun!
Ahead of the show's opening night, Rosie and Carly spoke to Stephen Mahy who takes on the role of Tony's older brother, to talk about what it is like to bring a cult-classic to the stage and why we all definitely dont want to miss this show. Have a read below:
SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER is a stage show based on the 1977 movie starring John Travolta that many of our readers will be familiar with. Why do you think this story was brought to the stage, and what can audiences expect from this production?
I think that any story, whether it’s film or stage, is quite poignant. There’s issues in the movie that they put onto the stage, they talk about identity, they talk about rape culture, feminism, masculinity, drugs and alcohol. I think it’s a testament to the writing that those stories can carry across onto stage. With the catalogue of songs (you’ve got Bee Gees, obviously), and I think just having a strong throughline of story, this show actually does really draw the audience in and makes them realise that this isn’t just a show about singing and dancing. It’s so nice to hear the story and hear what Tony’s life is like, and it is the 70s but you can imagine in 2019 that there are a lot of men and women out there trying to find their identity too - whether that is through performing or just through themselves, whichever outlet that comes from. So coming from the movie to the stage is exciting because the live audience brings a new element to it - seeing it live and seeing it raw is amazing and a live audience brings something new to us every night. You find that people laugh at different things, or resonate with parts we didn’t expect, so it’s really nice to have that instant gratification.
This production of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER has almost 30 choreographed numbers! In such a dance-heavy show, how have you gone about learning so much choreography in such a short period of time as well as learning songs and dialogue? Have you faced any challenges with the choreography so far?
I have not actually, because I’m not in them! This is one of the first shows for me that is solely acting. They’ve got some of Sydney’s best commercial dancers for this show and there’s a reason why they did it - they are absolutely incredible! There’s a dance competition in the musical and all the dancers are partnered up and it’s a shame that not every couple could get up and do something because they all have this brilliant versatility in their dance, and I promise you do not want to see me doing that. I have one dance bit at the end, and that’s definitely enough. Don’t get me wrong, I love to dance, just not like this. I’m leaving it to the professionals!!
You’re playing Tony’s older brother, Frank Jr., in this production, but we’ve seen you before in Mamma Mia!, Miss Saigon and Grease. Why was SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER the next step for you and what drew you to this production?
I was given the opportunity to audition for an acting role and that’s where I’m going. I am getting older and the shows I’ve done before have kind of been all in the high school range, early 20s kind of vibe. Mamma Mia was my last hurrah to my 20s! I got given the script for Saturday Night Fever and I thought wow, the story is really there. If we’re going to bring another jukebox musical out then why not bring out one that is poignant? I play another role called Fosco, he’s the hardware store owner, and both of the roles I play have moments for Tony to draw him out of that pop culture world and that’s him at the essence. That’s the essence that the Australian working class will understand, that if you want these opportunities, work hard at it and you probably will get it.
The story of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER has been labeled a ‘cult classic’ – why do you think this story has resonated with so many people?
It is really interesting why things get labelled that. John Travolta has a big play in that, and people will know the white suit and the dance floor, and there are many iconic moments within it. The Bee Gees as well, of course. That music stands the test of time, like Jersey Boys, or Abba. When you do shows like that you understand why the music is still there and why it is so iconic. What’s been done with the music with this production is insane. We have the band, and four brilliant singers singing in a four-part harmony. I guess it’s an amalgamation of the story that’s there, the iconic imagery, and the music.
SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER is packed with a tonne of disco classics including many popular songs from the Bee Gees. What’s your favourite song in this production?
It does change a lot because I get to hear different elements but ‘How Deep is Your Love’ is pretty special. It’s almost like ‘oh why are we finishing on that note’ but then you get there and you understand exactly why we’re finishing like that. Then Saturday Night Fever comes back on and we burn it up.
I have to ask: so for this production, Marcia Hines is on stage singing Marcia Hines classics, what’s that like? How has the rehearsal period been like with her?
It is incredible. One of the disco songs Marcia sings in the show was released in 1981. I was born in 1982, and I grew up listening to that song and other songs like it, so to come into rehearsals and be like ‘woah, she’s right there!’ was amazing. She looks fiercer than most, and she is the kindest, most generous person of that star quality that I have ever met. I fangirled hard, absolutely. I did wonder what the audience was going to do, but last night, no word of a lie, they absolutely erupted.
I know a couple of people that toured with her over the last 18 months in Velvet, and they just say she is always on. That’s who you look up to - I’ve been in the industry for 12 years but she’s been in the industry for 40. She is a model of how you sustain yourself in the industry for that long and still remain kind to everyone.
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS
Favourite production you have ever seen?
Jersey Boys in Vegas
You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?
The Amalfi Coast
Dream show/role to perform?
I would love to play Chris again in Miss Saigon
Plays or musicals?
Plays - well, I have seen more musicals but I have read more plays. Both.
A hobby you have beyond the theatre?
What’s next for you after this show?
Lots of things! The continuation of this hopefully, I want to start giving back and teaching as well. I think I want to be a bit more involved in the industry whether it’s on or off stage, so I want to start sinking my teeth into that.
Stephen Mahy as Frank Jr, Euan Doidge as Tony in Saturday Night Fever
Photo Credit: Heidi Victoria