first night


Daniel Turner heads down to Hild Bede, the hottest spot north of Havana, to review Barry Manilow's musical

Copacabana by Barry Manilow has gone through the works; a TV film in the 80s, an Atlantic City stage show in the 90s, a musical towards the turn of the millennium, and now Hild Bede Theatre’s annual musical.  Following Stephen through the musical-writing process—yes, the show is a metadramatical dream, in all its clichéd, glittery form—the audience is carried to New York City’s Copacabana Nightclub, tracing the lyrics to the song “Lola,” which is to feature in the musical he is writing. In case you can’t tell, the premise of the musical isn’t something I’m entirely enamoured with, BUT it does contain (once we enter into Stephen’s dream…cringe) a lot of hugely fun and catchy songs, and Hild Bede Theatre really give this show some hard work and display some very impressive performances.

John Muething is superb. He has a certain naïve charm that works well when he plays Tony, working hard to achieve musical praise both as the character and as a performer. His singing is excellent, and really showcased throughout, and being American does, I suppose, relieve the difficulty of putting on an accent (which a couple of other performers did find difficult). And it only seemed appropriate that with this overflowing talent, the leading lady should be equally as impressive. Adele Pope’s performance of the bolshie Lola la Mar, desperate to become a performer, is breath-taking. Pope really excelled in the audition sequence of “Man Wanted,” each time she leant on the piano she drew more and more comedy from the frustration of failed auditions, which the audience loved. The pair of them singing “This Can’t Be Real” is the peak of this show. In a song which could be the cheesiest moment—the two leads finally revealing their love for one another—there is a little bit of awkwardness in the kissing, but their amazing dancing and singing made up for this. The impressive haze and beautiful lighting made this scene so picturesque, and aesthetically and aurally was one of the most pleasing parts of the show.

Dave Stodel and Sian Dolding were excellent supporting leads, and provided both the comic relief and the action the relief was needed for. Dolding’s vivacious maraca-shaking whilst wearing an exotic arrangement of glittery fruit was highly entertaining in “Havana” but her performance wasn’t solely slap-stick. Her and Stodel provided the darker elements of the show, and Stodel and Pope’s “Bolero D’Amore” can only be described as haunting. Pope’s complete physical surrendering to Stodel in this drug-fuelled scene was terrifying to watch, as she was literally thrown around the stage. Though the song seemed to prove a little challenging for Stodel toward the end, his Italian accent was fine and his threatening position on stage never faltered.

Hannah Cope’s “Copa Girl” speaks for the quality of the rest of the cast. Her earthy, smoky voice was well suited to this sexy and sassy number. The female chorus were particularly strong in this show, and Catherine Scutts stood out in particular. So many of the girls weren’t just dancing and singing, but were constantly in character too. The male chorus weren’t quite as competent, but still executed their dances with huge effort and seemed to enjoy themselves.

The show didn’t quite seem ready for last night. Some of the scenes seemed to need a little more rehearsing, and the tech was in no way perfect—in fact, the microphones barely worked throughout the whole performance. While the script isn’t great, Jonnie Grande, Emma Cave and Seth Miall have really turned this into a high-energy, hugely entertaining show. Once all of the tech issues have been resolved, it has promise to be a fabulous show. Go see it!


10 March 2011

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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