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Jewish Journal

Mr. ‘Saturday Night’

by Michael Aushenker

May 24, 2001 | 8:00 pm

Jon Platt revives the '70s.

Jon Platt revives the '70s.

If there are two blockbuster motion pictures that stand as the defining pop-cultural phenomena of the 1970s, they are, arguably, "Star Wars" and "Saturday Night Fever." And while "Star Wars -- the Broadway Musical" is probably not as far-off as we may think, "Saturday Night Fever -- The Broadway Musical" is already here. As in here ... in Los Angeles.

One person we have to thank for that is Jon B. Platt, who is co-producing the "Fever" musical with its creator, Robert Stigwood. At 46, Platt has staged numerous Broadway productions and national tours, including popular Jewish-themed works such as "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Angels in America," which garnered two Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize.

"Fever -- the Musical" takes its cues from a popular movie that captured a generation: the image of John Travolta in a tight white suit pulling off those hot dance moves to the disco pulse of the Bee Gees' infectious pop confections has become shorthand for '70s era sexuality and style.

The songs are the true stars of the musical, Platt said. The Bee Gees penned two new compositions especially for the occasion: "Immortality" and "First & Last." But unlike, say, the ABBA-driven "Mamma Mia," for which a story line was created around the songs, Platt said his production "faithfully follows the story of the film."

"Fever" revolves around its Italian American anti-hero, though Platt is no stranger to Jewish stories. Some of his most innovative productions have featured Jewish content. Beyond the "Fiddler" revival, Platt worked on the critically acclaimed staging of "The Diary of Anne Frank," starring Natalie Portman prior to her "Phantom Menace" success.

Next up for the Boston-based producer is what he calls a "reconceived" revival of "Man of La Mancha," tentatively due in the fall of next year.

Occasionally, Platt muses over the decision years ago to leave behind his Boston University biochemistry studies and pursue entertainment -- to his parents' dismay.

"They were horrified," Platt recalled with a laugh. "Now my mother has a Tony Award sitting on her television set. This is my doctorate."

"Saturday Night Fever," Shubert Theatre, Century City, May 29 - June 24; Orange County performing Arts Center, Costa Mesa, June 26 - July 8.

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