'Saturday Night Fever'

Get out the polyester and platform shoes at Manchester's Palace Theatre

NH Weekend Editor
April 12. 2017 12:58PM
Jared Troilo, a Boston actor who previously performed in a half dozen shows at the Palace Theatre, returns to Manchester in a staring role as Tony Manero in “Saturday Night Fever.” 

Boston actor Jared Troilo, set to play the lead in a three-week run of “Saturday Night Fever” at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, sums up the job this way: “It’s hard to outdo John Travolta.”

After all, who can forget that famous strut? It was 1977, and Tony Manero, a cocky kid from Brooklyn, may not be rich, but he owns the dance floor.

John Travolta, already known for his role as the popular but dim student Vinny Barbarino on TV’s “Welcome Back, Kotter” sitcom, was in his breakout screen role in “Saturday Night Fever,” embodying the bouncy swagger of a streetwise thug with few answers but all the moves.

At 19, Tony is a defiant mix of youthful avoidance and arrogance, working at a local hardware store mixing paint and going home to fend off his parents’ disappointment that he isn’t more like his saintly brother (who may or may not be in the priesthood.)

“It’s a very iconic character,” said Troilo. “I tried to go back to the movie and find little things that I could pay tribute to — the way he said lines, or dance moves that he did, or even the way he walked, because people loved that movie so much and want to see pieces of it.

“But at the same time, I try to make it my own, a little bit different, and true to who I am. So, it’s the best of both worlds.”

The film’s classic scene at the dining room table pretty much sums it up the teenager’s dedication to the dance floor, his only escape from a hardscrabble neighborhood, poor job prospects and a contentious relationship with his Italian-American family. Manero, who has just finished his nightly pre-club regimen, sits with a sheet draped over his pristine polyester shirt to keep away any errant spaghetti sauce.

Taking flak from his mother, father and sister, Manero ranks lowest at home, but he’s a king under the disco ball. So when his father, a belligerent out-of-work construction worker worried about making ends meet, smacks the back of Manero’s perfectly coiffed head in disgust for having a second pork chop on his plate, Manero’s responds with an indignant and almost laughable earnestness, “Would ya just watch the hair? Ya know, I work on my hair a long time ... and you hit it. He hits my hair.”

For his turn as Manero, Troilo, 31, spent some time researching the ’70s, when the Bee Gees’ music ruled the charts with “Stayin’ Alive,” “How Deep is Your Love,” “More Than a Woman” and “You Should Be Dancing.”

And, of course, he studied Travolta’s starring role, including that strut, a sort of arrogant preening with a trademark hitch mid-step.

“Yeah, I’m working on it,” he said with a laugh. “It’s taking some rehearsal because it’s a very distinctive walk. It’s very specific, and nobody really does it like him. I’ve been watching him and working on it, so hopefully by the time we open, it will be down pat.”

The show’s opening performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday. It runs through Saturday, May 6.

Artistic director Carl Rajotte routinely casts his musicals with professional actors working in the New York City market. Troilo previously performed in six shows at the Palace Theatre — “Les Miserables,” “West Side Story,” “Grease” (another Travolta classic), “Godspell” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat.”

For “Saturday Night Fever,” Troila is trying to get comfortable with the accent and colloquialism.

“It’s a very lower-class Brooklyn accent,” he said. “Pretty much everyone in the show has that same sound and feel.”

Meanwhile, he’s not that thrilled about all the polyester, to be honest.

“I have a lot of pictures of my parents. This is kind of their era, and the way they are dressed is just so embarrassing to me but ... apparently it was really cool at the time — you know, the bellbottoms and the polyester and the platform shoes,” Troilo joked. “It was the thing. But pretty much any of it I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing (off stage).”

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