Disco is staying alive in stage adaptation of 'Saturday Night Fever'
By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
Matt Alfaro may only have been playing Tony Manero for a few weeks, but the disco king is already taking over his life.
When we connected for a phone interview Tuesday, Alfaro was walking through downtown Santa Barbara, Calif., on a little downtime from the grueling business of starting up a national tour.
"Are you strutting like Travolta?" I asked, thinking of the iconic opening credits sequence of the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever.
"Well, (Tony) has kind of immersed himself in my regular life, so a little bit, maybe," Alfaro said, laughing.
Alfaro brings Tony to life on tour in a touring production of the musical adaptation of Saturday Night Fever, which kicked off Jan. 7 in Minnesota and arrives in Amarillo for performances at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 25 and 26 in the Amarillo Civic Center Complex Auditorium, 401 S. Buchanan St. Tickets for the Civic Amarillo Broadway Spotlight Series production are $20 to $55, plus fees.
Like Tony, Alfaro lives to dance: He began his career as a young hoofer before expanding to singing and acting as a teenager.
"The root of everything I do comes from dance," he said. "It's a blessing to have the opportunity to play a part like this where everything springs from dance."
As in the film, Tony tries to escape his dead-end life by escaping every weekend to the disco, though don't expect the musical to faithfully replicate some of the film's harder edges.
"It's pretty true to the movie. ... It's changed a little, not as dark and as R-rated as the movie," Alfaro said. "It's a fun musical for a family ... but it's kept a lot of the great rawness of New York City of the time, of Brooklyn of the time — that seedy pulse that's the underbelly of it all.
"He escapes by disco, that crappier reality that everyone sees from 9 to 5," he continued. "Truly, dance can take us to another place."
Alfaro — who grew up studying ballet, hip-hop and Latin dance — took to disco fairly naturally.
"I've spent a lot of time studying these different kinds of dance, and the choreographer, Marc Kimelman, is a friend from years past, and he's really good at paying respect to where it all comes from, paying homage to the original style but also making it fresh and new."
That's similar to Alfaro's approach to playing Tony.
"My approach is not to redo it but to re-create and pay respect to what it is, but bring my own flavor to it, you know?" Alfaro said. "We have a similar vibe, Travolta and I do, for sure.
"I guess my answer is you can't do what has been done before, but you can keep it in your subconscious and let that help feed what's happening in the moment," he said.