Barry Manilow’s COPACABANA
music by Barry Manilow lyrics by Bruce Sussman and Jack Feldman book by Barry Manilow, Jack Feldman and Bruce Sussman.
Watermill Theatre Bagnor Newbury RG20 8AE To 4 September 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm (no mat 15 July) except 4 Sept at 1.30pm and 6.30pm.
Runs 2hr 45min One interval.
TICKETS: 01635 46044.
Review Mark Courtice 19 July.
Maybe because it started life as a single, the plot of Manilow’s backstage musical is simple; it’s boy meets girl, girl gets abducted, boy wins girl. The self-consciously retro adaptation for the stage springs no surprises; the humour’s simple and a clumsy present-day love story framing-device adds 20 minutes to a joke that goes on too long.
So it’s got to be the music that makes the evening.
Actually, the ingenuity has gone into the title song – the one we all know; the rest do the job, but unmemorably.
Despite this unpromising material the Watermill has come up trumps with a production that cheerfully bulldozes its way through the mushy music and ponderous gags, and comes up zingy and fresh. It’s not subtle, but it is fun.
At the centre of the pleasure is the hard-working cast, who play, sing, dance and act their hearts out. Laura Pitt-Pulford’s impossibly naive Lola is sweetly done and well sung, Antony Reed’s Rico is suavely sinister, and Karen Mann and Julian Littman contribute a rollicking double act as Gladys and Sam.
However this is very much an ensemble, responding to Craig Revel Horwood’s bustling production and sparky choreography with energy and commitment. They also give a first-class account of Sarah Travis’s arrangements. These are so clever; subtle and confident, and wringing a terrific sound out of a band that’s made up of the actors themselves. The fact that the showgirls play clarinets throughout their big dance numbers adds to the charm, while not lessening the shimmy.
Diego Pitarch’s neat set provides a glittery staircase and a piano, leaving all the space there is on the stage to accommodate a company of 12. There is no need for holding back with the costumes; the lush outfits for the showgirls and vamp Conchita are gloriously over the top, and the boys unabashedly camp.
It’s asking a lot of the Watermill team of actor/musicians to make Manilow’s piece work, but it’s a tribute to the robustness of the basic concept, some engaging performances and the skill of the team that they manage it.
Atephen/Tony: Edward Baker Duly.
Con chita: Basienka Blake.
Luis: Adam C Booth.
Willy: Robin Colyer.
Sam: Julian Littman.
Gladys: Karen Mann.
Show MD: Neil MacDonald.
Showgirls: Cassie Pearson, Sally Peerless.
Samantha/Lola: Laura Pitt-Pulford.
Rico: Antony Reed.
McManus/Maitre D’: Joe West.
Director/Choreographer: Craig Revel Horwood.
Designer: Diego Pitarch.
Lighting: Richard G. Jones.
Sound: Gareth Tucker.
Musical supervisor/arrangemr: Sarah Travis.