New York’s Studio 54 nightclub may only have been open for a short time but it defined disco culture and set a standard modern day clubs struggle to reach. A haven for celebrities, home to the ‘it’ crowd and playground of the rich, Studio 54 was the brainchild of entrepreneurs Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager who each spent 13 months in prison after being found guilty of tax-evasion following the club’s closure.
The iconic status of the club struck us as a wonderful backdrop for a theatre musical, all we needed was a story, and where better to look than the complete works of Shakespeare?
‘Othello’ was the first choice but was later rejected as it was feared that such a tragic story would not gel with the up-beat hedonism of studio 54. ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ was considered and finally ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ was chosen. The plot revolving around two wealthy young couples from Connecticut run away from their controlling parents and finding themselves in the magical Studio 54. After writing around one quarter of the script and several songs it became apparent that the first choice of ‘Othello’ was a much stronger concept and the ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ script was scrapped in favour of the Othello version. The twee ending that had originally been conceived was scrapped and replaced with the bittersweet finale and, with a new outlook, the show began to take shape. Though the story is one of doomed love and tragic circumstance Studio 54 is never depressing or melancholic. With pumping disco beats and lively song and dance numbers the show moves along at a rapid rate of knots never dwelling on the sorrows while maintaining the poignancy and integrity of the Shakespeare original.
It is 1978 in New York City, anyone who is anyone spends their nights at the infamous Studio 54, the nightclub that made Sodom and Gomorrah look like Little House On The Prairie. A place that was as hard to get into as it was to resist. Even super stars such as Cher, Warren Beaty and Frank Sinatra were refused entry! Miss Mona Desire, a drag artiste and her partner Jake Moore are performers at the club, run by Steve Rubell. When Miss Mona Desire, Des to her friends, meets Josh Cassio, an old school friend, Josh is immediately hired by Steve to perform at the club. Although most at the club are happy with this, particularly fellow performer LaToyah Montano, ‘wannabe’ and social climber Nikita Santiago is furious.
With her two flunkies, Evelyn Sunset and Mysti Dawn, on side Nikita uses social leper Stacey Roderigo to begin a series of events she hopes will ruin Jake and Des and place her centre stage at Studio 54.
Stacey tells Steve that Jake is selling contaminated drugs at the club. When Steve confronts Jake Des comes to her lovers defence and Stacey is left looking ridiculous. She is further ridiculed by LaToyah and Josh. This eventually escalates into a barroom brawl in which Josh is slightly injured (by Nikita who lets Stacey take the blame) and is told by Steve he won’t perform at Studio 54.
Nikita further manipulates Stacey into engineering a confrontation between Jake and Des by encouraging Des to fight for Josh’s reintegration to the club. Everyone loves a peacemaker! Nikita then reminds Jake just how much time Josh and Des have been spending together as she gives him cocaine for the first time, a tool she will use to confuse him and build his paranoia. Furious at what he hears Jake has a shocking confrontation with Josh who leaves the club for good. However, several weeks later he returns for Des’s birthday and, with help from Des, Steve re-employs him at the club.
Nikita gives Josh a necklace (previously given to Des by Jake but stolen by Evelyn) as a gift for LaToyah. After becoming increasingly dependent on the drugs Nikita provides Jake is enraged to find LaToyah with the necklace. When Des and Josh arrive late at the club, missing his performance, Jake vows to Nikita that he will never be a fool for love again. Between them they create a deadly plan that will rid the club of Des and Josh forever. Unbeknown to him, Jake is also on Nikita’s hit list as she finally looks set to take centre stage at Studio 54.