Copacabana was 'razzmatazz at its best'
By Ron Ellis
Copacabana by Barry Manilow
Little Theatre, Southport
Written by Barry Manilow, Copacabana started out as a song in 1978, was expanded into a TV special seven years later by Dick Clarke, then became a live show at Caesars Palace before being transformed into a full-blown, smash hit Transatlantic musical in 1994 and is now a staple of amateur operatic companies the world over.
And no wonder. ‘Copacabana’ is an exhilarating show, full of glamour and razzmatazz set alongside a soundtrack of exciting 40s big band music and Latin rhythms, played here by a top-class 12-piece orchestra under the expert direction of Chris Rimmer. Songs like the title track and Sounds like Heaven lingered on long after the final curtain.
John Delahunty and Toni Spofforth were both outstanding as barman/would-be songwriter, Tony Forte, and wannabe singer, Lola Lamar, who work together and fall in love at New York’s legendary Copacabana Club.
Amanda Shaw was a delight to watch as cigarette lady, Gladys, an ex-showgirl herself, who persuades club owner, Sam (the lively Ian Lawson) to take on Lola as a singer. Naturally, she becomes the star attraction, with Tony as her accompanist, and they take the club by storm.
But Lola is drugged by rival club owner, gangster Rico Castelli played by Dom Tolley who, with his Clarke Gable moustache and sinister smile, personified a pre-war villain.
Next minute, we are in Cuba. Rico has flown Lola to Havana to headline at his Tropicana Club, Cuba’s top nightspot, intending her to replace current singer, the alluring Conchita (a temptingly seductive performance by Janine Burrows), both onstage and in his bed.
Tony arrives in Cuba, along with Gladys and Sam, in pursuit of his lost love. Rico makes to kill him but Conchita beats him to it and shoots her lover dead. Very much a ‘with one bound, Lola was free’ explanation but, heigh ho, this is a musical not a thriller and it is the music and dancing that are important so, on with the show.
The colourful costumes for this production were quite spectacular and would not have looked out of place at the London Palladium and were matched by the exuberance of the fleet-footed dancers.
Directed by award-winning Stephen Hughes-Alty, and with a supporting cast of 22 dancers and singers, this was a big-time, feel-good show in what has been a highly successful year for Southport Spotlights after their success with My Fair Lady in February.
Watch out for their next production, Funny Girl in February 2019.
Star rating 8/10 Razzmatazz at its best.