Out & About

'Saturday Night Fever' struts into Macon

SPECIAL TO THE TELEGRAPHEnjoy the disco sights and sounds of the 1970s when "Saturday Night Fever" comes to the Grand Opera House this weekend.
SPECIAL TO THE TELEGRAPHEnjoy the disco sights and sounds of the 1970s when "Saturday Night Fever" comes to the Grand Opera House this weekend.

Made famous by John Travolta -- or perhaps even more accurately by John Travolta's strut -- "Saturday Night Fever" captures that moment in time when there was no denying that disco was king.

"Saturday Night Fever" is packed with such legendary hits from the Bee Gees as "Stayin' Alive," "Night Fever," "Jive Talking," "You Should Be Dancing" and "How Deep is Your Love," in addition to several new songs written especially for this production. There is no doubt that audiences will be hard-pressed to stay in their seats and not join in the dance numbers.

The story revolves around 19-year-old Tony Manero, a young man whose weekends are spent visiting the local Brooklyn disco. Tony dances to forget the banality of his daily life: a dead-end job, clashes with his unsupportive and squabbling parents and his associations with a gang of macho friends. Yet, even on the dance floor, where he lives large, Tony struggles to find out who he really is -- or, even more critically -- who he wants to be. Tensions between him and Stephanie Mangano, a woman he pursues, and Annette, Tony's former dance partner and would-be girlfriend, force him to make some hard decisions.

Star Matthew Baker, who plays Tony, originally from England, is now a proud New Yorker and thrilled to be putting his boogie shoes back on for this production.

"It is amazing to step into a Brooklyn-born young man's life, being British-born. Also, we're taking it back a few years, so this is definitely an experience," Baker said. "We have a radio edit in the beginning of the show, which is very different from anything I grew up with. It's wonderful for me as an actor. I can't be myself on stage at all, and that's really nice. It's a complete transformation."

The role is a fun but challenging one for Baker.

"Explaining someone's life in roughly two and half hours is difficult," Baker said. "I have to show you what has gone on in Tony's life before the show starts. I'm on stage for most of the show and I have to keep the story going. It's easy once you get going into story mode."

About the music, Roseann Swiergosz, executive director of the Grand Opera House, said the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack was the "best-selling soundtrack of all time when the movie came out."

"The dancing is exciting. This is definitely the chance to see a really beloved dance story on the stage -- live. It's too good of an opportunity to miss," she said.

And according to Baker, "disco is fun."

"I wasn't around for it originally, but it's really good," he said. "Our choreographer put his twists on the moves, so you'll see all the signature moves, but with lots of fresh twists."

This show is part of the Grand's Broadway Series, which, Swiergosz said, remains committed to bringing new, exciting and quality entertainment to the stage. To make the performance more family-friendly, many of the film's darker elements were eliminated from the plot, although it does not shy away from themes of loss and heartache.

"The movie was pretty crazy," Baker said. "It was a very dark movie, with happy disco scenes and happy bits in the middle. It was not really a happy story. Our version in much more PG. It's appropriate for live audiences."

"Honestly," Baker said, "we are going around the country and seeing lots of different audiences. This production is not just for New Yorkers and it is really fun to hear different laughs and different responses in different places. It helps you feel the audience and play to them. We play to the people who lived this era and the younger audience members who have never danced disco before. Ultimately, we don't want anyone in their seat at the end. We try and get them up and dancing. Come and watch us with your boogies shoes on!"

"Saturday Night Fever"

When: 7:30 p.m. March 12-13.

Where: Grand Opera House, 651 Mulberry St.

Cost: $45-$68

Information: www.TheGrandMacon.com; 478-301-5470