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
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
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.