The disco dancing fever is back

Dancer Richard Winsor spent 10 years with Matthew Bourne’s production company performing in shows like Edward Scissorhands, Dorian Grey, and the second generation of Swan Lake – but now he’s returning to his first love, Saturday Night Fever.

Richard Winsor, as Tony Manero, dances with Kate Parr, playing Stephanie in the stage version of Saturday Night Fever

“John Travolta’s performance in the film Saturday Night Fever was what got me dancing as a kid,” says the star of the new stage show of the classic nightclub tale. “The disco scenes, his solo, his very masculine energy, it inspired me. 

“I remembered all the incredible moments from the film and all its themes, and thought ‘If we get that clear and honest for a new stage version, it could be really amazing’.

“And we are taking it back to that dark atmospheric setting. We’re not shying away from that. It is still going to be a stage dance show, but we really are finding the realism in it.”

The film and its iconic Bee Gees soundtrack tell the story of Tony Manero – loser by day but disco dancing star at night.

“He’s a young, enigmatic guy who hasn’t had much opportunity in his life,” explains Richard. “He’s from a hard-working, down on their luck, Brooklyn family, and works in a paint store for minimal wages. But when he goes to the 2001: Odyssey nightclub, he is the king on the dance floor. 

“He’s a different person there. He loves the attention, the sweat, the heat, the women. When the club announces a dance competition with a prize of $1,000 and the chance to dance in the discos of Manhattan, it’s a big deal for him. It offers him that chance to escape.”

The movie has endured since its 1977 release and Richard, also known to TV audiences as Caleb Knight in the BBC hospital drama Casualty, says the themes are still relevant.

“That’s the thing,” he says. “With Trump threatening to build a wall to keep the Mexicans out and people with split families striving for a better life, it’s interesting to look at it and think ‘How far have we come?’  40 years on, and similar families are talking about not being employed and trying to break free. It’s all still there.”

The music has also survived the test of time with songs like Night Fever, Stayin’ Alive, Jive Talkin’ and the rest still proving popular.

“We wanted to keep the music close to the brilliant original soundtrack,” says Richard of the new stage production. “The music supporting the drama and the tragedies as they unfold. We have an electric band guiding us along and the Bee Gees singing the hits, which all adds to the story. Hearing the music played live is amazing.”

As for following in Travolta’s dance steps, he says: “It’s a challenge. I want to draw from him, not imitate him. I’ve got so much to play off – the ways of standing, walking and dancing. But I have to play my own reality, otherwise it becomes contrived imitation.”

Richard Winsor will star as Tony in Saturday Night Fever at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking, from Tuesday (6 Aug) until Saturday 10 August.

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