Tag Archives: Aykut Hilmi

Saturday Night Fever Cologne remembered

13 Jun

If you have been following my blog you might have guessed by now that I am what one could call a theatre geek. I adore theatre. It’s by far my favourite way of spending my free time and I honestly couldn’t imagine my life without the arts.

And in just a little over 2 weeks a very special date is coming up. June 30th 2012 will mark the 10th anniversary of the last performance of the show that started it all of: Saturday Night Fever in Cologne. It wasn’t the first musical I’d seen in my life but it was the one that really made me into what I am today: A complete theatre enthusiast.
It’s funny because I can’t even name the exact date of my first visit to Saturday Night Fever (although I’m 100% sure I still have the ticket somewhere in my ticket collection). It must have been sometime in autumn 1999 and I remember the ticket was a gift from my parents – they are probably still blaming themselves for my theatre addiction.

Group shot taken on the last day of the show

So, Saturday Night Fever – yes, the musical adaption of the popular movie. And yes, a German production of the show (meaning German dialogues and English songs). Until then I had never seen the same production more than 3 times and I had never been a regular at any theatre. But this changed once I got hooked on this colourful show with all its catchy tunes and fabulous choreography. During the first year my visits were rare – first of all I still regarded watching a musical a very special occasion and then I was only a student back then which ment money was quite tight. It wasn’t until late summer 2000 that I started making monthly visits to the show. And from 2001 on those visits became weekly until I was basically living inside the theatre. I remember one of the dressers telling me and a friend: “You are not fans! You are  part of the theatre!” I’m sure some of the people who worked at the theatre thought we were crazy and I don’t blame them. But we never felt out-of-place. No, actually it was like being part of a community. There were us few regulars, the front of house people (the theatre wouldn’t have been the same without Hamid – I wish I knew what he was doing today), the “Bistro” people (which was the theatre’s little bar – we could spend all day in there without getting bored thanks to Rainer – the owner – and his staff), the backstage people (Ralfi who was running the theatre canteen, for example, or Hubert from stage door – such a one of a kind person!) and the cast.
Whilst everyone except us was doing a job there it was more than just work for most of those guys and girls. Saturday Night Fever was special and we – the supporters of the show – were in a way part of this very special show.

Michelle Escano (Maria) and Robb Morris (Chester)

Before Saturday Night Fever I had never spoken to a performer and suddenly I was right in the middle of a bunch of lovely and talented people from around the world. Those guys loved their job (with few exceptions – you will always get a few people who are just in it for the money) and they loved being part of the Night Fever family. And the thing that was most extraordinary for me at the time was that they accepted us – the fans – and made us feel welcome and appreciated. Not once during my 2,5 years at that theatre did I feel like the cast didn’t want me there or was getting annoyed by my presence. I will always cherish the friendliness I experienced from those people who were working so hard to put on a great show for the audience day by day and who would always have a nice word for me and my friends despite being busy and often simply beyond tired.

Aykut Hilmi (Doube J) and Gerald Marko (ensemble)

It has been almost 10 years now since Saturday Night Fever left the blue tent (that’s what we called the Musical Dome which is the theatre the show ran in – google it and you will understand why). I have seen other productions of this show over the years and I loved most of them. But none ever came close to the Cologne production. It wasn’t just a show – it was a huge part of my life at the time. I’ve met so many amazing people through this production, a lot of whom I am still in contact with today.
I am proud to call some of the performers I have met through Saturday Night Fever my friends today. Some of them are still performing – a few even in London. I will go and see them in whatever show they are in or we’ll just meet up for a catch up when time allows. And most of them have nothing but the fondest memories of their time in Cologne.

Curtain call, last performance on June 30 2002

Even if you have never seen Saturday Night Fever you might recognise a few of the performers who were part of the show. To name just a few:
Peter Johansson (who went on to play Galileo in We will rock you London)
Mike Denman (Contact, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Chicago, Never Forget and currently Wizard of Oz – all in London)
Ashley Hale (Guys and Dolls, Dirty Dancing, Jersey Boys and lately Shrek in London to name just a few)
Luke Jackson (yes, the guy from “So you think you can dance”)
Sebastien Torkia (Guys and Dolls and currently playing Ed in the Lion King in London)
Matthew Cole  (understudy for Adam/Felicia in the original London cast of Priscilla)
Michael Rouse (Legolas in Lord of the Rings in London)
Stephane Anelli (Jose in Never Forget to name just one show and currently appearing at Regents Park Open Air Theatre)
Aykut Hilmi (he has just started as a regular in East Enders)

The two performers I am especially grateful to have met can’t go unnamed although most of you won’t have heard of them: Marc Seitz and Matthew Huet. Both are exceptionally talented and all in all fantastic guys and I feel very lucky to know them.

Me and Matthew Huet (Cesar) in 2000

So, what is the point of this post? I simply wanted to share a few memories of a very special time in my theatre life. Without Saturday Night Fever I might never have become the theatre addict I am today – and trust me, I love being a theatre addict!
I’ve seen various shows over the years and met a lot of lovely people (performers, fans etc) but nothing will ever come close to the Night Fever times. Maybe it has to do with the fact that this was my first ever experience of theatre life. But mostly it’s because I don’t think there will ever be a theatre community like this again – the people, the theatre, the production – it was perfect.Like Cheyenne (Double J and Tony Manero in the show) used to say: Keep the fever!
This simple quote is still valid even after 10 years and I’m sure for everyone that was part of this show in any way it will never lose its meaning.