Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton
Now here's a musical that isn't performed frequently by either professionals or amateurs. It's a good musical, just not a great musical, and while I can see the attraction in choosing this one because of the glitter, glitz and glamour, you need a little more than this to pull it off. It's not a case that I didn't not enjoy "Copacabana", I just didn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped I would. Maybe I set my own expectations too high.
"Copacabana" is all about Stephen who is a struggling songwriter, trying to write that one song that will make his name. He dreams about the song while he is getting ready to celebrate his wedding anniversary, and his thoughts run away with him. he is transported back to 1947 with all the glamour of the nightclubs of the period. He is Tony and Lola comes into his life as a struggling singer. he gets her a job at the club he works at, the Copacabana, but when Rico comes on the scene, she is kidnapped and whisked away to perform at Rico's club, the Tropicana, and she is set to replace Rico's latest starlet squeeze, Conchita.
Sam Griffiths is the musical director and under his guidance, the orchestra of eleven, plus Sam on keyboards, are their usual powerhouse of crispness. With such a big sound this meant that some of the vocals from the actors suffered slightly and in an attempt to sing over the orchestra there were some strained notes. I don't mind a loud orchestra because it gives impact to the show, no issues at all from me with the sound.
The choreography, by Laurie Trott, was brilliant and quite complex at times with loads of Hollywood style glamour, but I noticed that the dancers were not as tight as they maybe could have been. if you think of the Busby Berkeley films of the 1940s, everything and every dancer was synchronised and this was lacking in parts here. Some of the dancers even looked like they were just going through the motions.
Some of the dancers were brilliant and embraced the magical choreography, and they outshone the others. For some there was a lack of passion and commitment, I felt. I did however love the Bolero section as well as the glamour girls, despite the fact that some forgot to smile, and there was the occasional looking at their feet when the heads should have been held up. I can remember hearing the phrase "eyes and teeth" as these were what needed to be on show most; I saw plenty of eyes, and read what was behind them, but I didn't see an over abundance of teeth. if you're not enjoying being there on stage, at least mask it by smiling, that way the audience will feel comfortable in knowing that you're enjoying it as much as they are.
I loved the cinematic back drops which made for a simple and efficient scene change and brought the stage to life. I also loved the amazing costumes which gave the era its' glamour and decadent feel. I loved the lights and the lighting effects and I loved the musical arrangements of Manilow's music. Barry's music isn't the easiest of musical pieces to sing, a bit like Abba. There are complex key changes and with Manilow's background in jazz and classical music, some of his pieces of work can be difficult to master, another reason why "Copa" isn't one of the most performed musicals.
Directed by Matt Powell, you can tell he has enjoyed this experience and he has been passionate about this show.
Lewis Haycock played Tony/Stephen and while I've seen Lewis perform better than this, he did make a convincing leading man and managed to hit all the big notes, which I was really impressed with. There were a few odd notes though and I know that if he is honest with himself, would agree. Lewis is a really confident performer and that's why I couldn't work out when he sung the songs, he didn't, for me, perform them. There is a difference. I used to teach and do judo and you could tell by looking in your opponent's eyes and at their body language what his/her next move would be, and I could see that level of telegraphing with Lewis. Don't get me wrong, i look for these things and any one who wasn't looking out for it would not notice a thing, so I'm sorry if this seems over critical. He did a cracking job though on the whole and I finally got to see the full passion in his performance right at the end when he performed "Copacabana".
Stephanie Ure was lovely as Lola/Samantha (Stephen's wife) and she has a really easy on the ear voice. Her dance steps were well executed and graceful and she has some really nice comedy bits in the show.
I absolutely loved Gary Lever as Sam, the boss of the Copacabana. Here is someone who really performed his songs and created a totally believable character. He reminded me a great deal of Melvyn Hayes, especially in his Hawaiian outfit, and what about that wig? The comedy in Sam really lifted the show.
As did the gorgeous Clare Toska as Rico's "old" starlet Conchita. Clare was brilliant in this role and she lit the stage up with her smile. Her accent didn't stray and was believable. She danced and sung brilliantly and she made me smile every time she appeared on stage.
Another wonderful character part was Gladys, the cigarette seller who travelled round the Copacabana selling tobacco, cigarettes etc. Fiona Wright I absolutely adored you and you really brought Gladys' character out, even down to that walk. I loved Gladys.
Steve Wood was the nasty Rico and another really well executed character part which i enjoyed.
Although I enjoyed the show, this wasn't the best I've seen the Erewash Musical Society perform and that's what irked me as I know what a talented group they are and how much hard work goes into every show they put on. I feel that maybe the choice of musical could have been wrong, but you have to take that chance. For me there was plenty of great music but, sadly in some performances, a little lacking in passion needed to pull off a convincing performance down at the Copa.
"Copacabana" is on at the Duchess Theatre, Long Eaton until Saturday 12 March 2016.