A/V Room









Oh What A Night

Review by David Munro

OH! What A Night. It was - noisy, vulgar, brash, and yet the audience loved it. Supposedly set in 1976, at the height of the disco-dancing craze, the plot, if it can be so designated, deals with the efforts of a Hollywood executive to find genuine disco dancers for a new disco musical then being cast.

Saturday Night Fever, obviously, although I found this reference disconcerting, as one recalled the superb professionalism and dancing of the film and couldn't help contrasting that with what was taking place on the stage of Richmond Theatre.

No one can expect a touring production to equal the glitz of an American musical film but did one have to produce something as tatty and choreographically unkempt as this?

The current tour of Buddy proves that a touring production can equal if not surpass the original in staging and performance.

I never saw the original production of Oh! What a Night, but I imagine it must have had some style and panache for it to have lasted as long as this. (The programme entry for the director, Kim Gavin, refers to his directing the original in 1997; however, it also indicates that he is 'currently' working on the ill-fated "125th Street" so it cannot be accepted as a wholly accurate source for information).

What was served up for the Richmond audiences was a badly directed and choreographed parody of a rock musical. The numbers were repetitive and resembled nothing more than a work out at the gym with a musical background. The singing was so badly miked that the words were indistinguishable and no attempt had been made to instil life or reality to the occasional breaks in the incessant Aerobic sessions for 'the acting'.

The cast battled manfully (and womanfully) and succeeded with their verve and energy in breathing some life into the 'songs and dances', which would have been better reserved for a more worthy cause.

The leading lady, Sheila Ferguson, representing Hollywood in the 'plot', appeared graciously for a few moments in the first act, sang a song, and then disappeared until the second act, when she sung a few more songs and seemed to wish to distance herself from what was going on around her.

Tee Jaye managed to bring charm and some semblance of reality to his part, as the owner of the club in which the piece was set, and, as far as was possible, held the threads of plot together and advanced the action with style and an aplomb which was highly commendable given the circumstances under which he was forced to appear.


Nigel Roche gave a stereotyped performance as a camp doorkeeper and brought the house down with his impersonation of one of the Village People singing 'Young Man' and 'YMCA'.

The rest of the cast performed their exercises with charm and boundless vigour, only I wished they could have bounded a little less and did some real dancing for which they were obviously well qualified to perform. They all had talent and I look forward to seeing them exercise it in something more worthy than this.

I will draw a merciful veil of anonymity over the set and costume designers. One of the characters referred to the costume of another as having been made out of the curtains of a caravan, and this remark could well have applied to the whole of the rest of the décor - only, I doubt whether anyone would have bought even a caravan with an interior so tastelessly furnished.

The music was well-served by the musical director and his minions, even if the sound was so over-amplified as to make it impossible at times to distinguish what they were playing. As Larry Hart once remarked: "I like to recognise the tune", and one would have thought, in something which describes itself as a musical, that is not asking too much.

All in all, I felt the performers' talents were wasted on an enterprise which should have been left in space and not returned to torment theatregoers in Richmond and elsewhere.

But as I have already said, I am a lone voice, and if the audience last night was anything to go by, this was what they wanted - Oh! What a Night indeed, and it is not one I would wish to pass again in many a long days journey.

Oh! What a Night by Christopher Barr, Directed by Kim Gavin, Various composers and lyricists, Setting designed by Paul Normandale, Costumes designed by Linda Martin, Lighting Design by Simon Tutchener, Choreographers Kim Gavin/Gary Lloyd, / Sound Design by Steve McManus, Musical Director Chris Taylor. WITH: Sheila Ferguson, Tee Jaye, Nigel Roche. Hugo Harold-Harrison, Pili Lopez, Jane Mcmurtrie, Leon Maurice-Jones, Grant Murphy, Bennett Andrews, Gemma Whitlam, Natalie Walton, Miranda Wilford, Vicky Chandler, Katy Lawrence, Richard Pearman, Martin Nielsen, Stuart Rogers. Presented at Richmond Theatre and Touring.

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