COPACABANA, the Musical, started life as a well-known song, which was inspired by a conversation between Barry Manilow and song writer Bruce Sussman at the Copacabana Hotel in Rio de Janeiro, when they discussed whether there had ever been a song called “Copacabana”.
This particular version of Copacabana is billed as a ‘new musical’ and therefore I was intrigued to see what was ‘new’ about it. From the opening scene, it was clear that this production has been transformed by director John Earwood, into a slick, well-executed show, without the big sets or long drawn- out scene changes which can sometimes interrupt the pace of a show. This production however still has the traditional big dance numbers, great singing and wonderful costumes. What was particularly obvious was how well drilled and in time the dancers were.
It was also very pleasing to see that the Director has made sure that this production does not fall victim of any of those little nagging issues which so frequently appear in shows and which makes the audience member squirm and wanting to scream out saying “that was such an avoidable mistake”. This attention to detail can only be a testament to him and the rest of the production team. The cast assisted in moving set and props and cue lines were all spot on, which makes such a difference.
There is no doubt that some patrons coming to watch this show will be expecting to see the huge sets which you ordinarily associate with this type of show; however, the necessity of big sets to provide a wow factor can sometimes be a common misconception and it is not always necessary.
Shows are fundamentally about content and the staging of this show makes you want to listen and engage with the characters, which is why you do not need huge sets in this case. The staging in this production is well thought out and simply ‘works’!
And for the cast, well, Copacabana simply doesn’t work without a talented leading man who can act, sing and dance.. and Daniel Ferrett who plays Stephen/Tony definitely has it all. Most pleasing was to see him use the full stage and ‘perform’
Seeing a leading man literally stood on the edge of the stage makes such a difference to the performance, rather than being hidden upstage. His performance was faultless.
Jo Gregory was a sweet and innocent Samantha/Lola and who showed great dance ability and characterisation and definitely one to watch in the future.
The rest of the principal line up was equally good, Adrian Jones as Rico, Natalie Angell-Collins as Conchita, Glenda Thomas as Gladys and Dave Smith as Sam, who in the end has the audience in the palm of his hand.
The chorus, who are equally as important, were all very strong and again, well drilled in their set changes and numerous dance numbers, all of which were wonderfully choreographed by Sarah Turner and Stef Radley.
The Theatre Royal benefits from a lowered band pit, which historically can prove problematic for sound balance between the band and the cast; however, the balance on this particular night was spot on. The musical director, Martin Bennett, and all the sound engineers were clearly working in harmony with each other, which carried the lovely sound from the orchestra into the audience. The lighting was also very effective and enhanced the mood on stage where appropriate.
Music and passion were always in fashion at the Copa and it’s certainly in fashion at the Theatre Royal, Winchester this week! Miss this show at your peril.
17th April 2014, Scene One
Barry Manilow’s song forms the background for this lightweight musical, charting the struggle for the affections of Lola, a wannabe singer-dancer, newly-arrived in New York in search of fame and fortune. After several auditions she strikes lucky at the eponymous nightclub, owned by seedy Rico (Adrian Jones) who wastes little time in eyeing her up as the replacement for the ageing Conchita (energetically played by Natalie Angell-Collins).
Jo Gregory impressed as Lola, in her first leading-role, never more-so than in her duets with company first-timer and star of the show, Daniel Ferrett, (Stephen/Tony). Strong support came from Dave Smith (Sam Silver) in his first principal role and the confident Glenda Thomas (Gladys).
Against effective sets, Director John Earwood, choreographers Sarah Turner and Stefanie Radley delivered a good-looking, well-drilled show. Music and passion are always in fashion!
17th April 2014, Daily Echo
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