REVIEW: Copacabana, Burnley Mechanics, to November 17th

WHEN the songs from a show are still bubbling away in your brain the following day, you know the entertainment has been memorable.

Monday, 12th November 2012, 1:47 pm

I’m still humming “Copacabana” from Saturday night but memorable isn’t the word to describe the spectacle being presented at Burnley Mechanics all this week.

Barry Manilow’s musical “Copacabana” has hit town with a bang.

I knew it was going to be a song and dance spectacular. But it is much more. I didn’t think it would be my sort of show – but how wrong was I?

From the opening number to the finale it is mesmerising in its magnificence. From a group of supposedly “amateur” song and dance men and women in Burnley Light Opera Society this is a truly professional performance. There were three professional male dancers in the mix and they impressed. But the whole company excel in this show penned by Manilow with lyrics by Bruce Sussman and directed and choreographed for Burnley by Anthony Williams.

After Saturday’s opening night Anthony said there had been a few minor technical issues, but, believe me, the audience didn’t notice. And the standing ovation at the end was well deserved. It was just a pity Mr Manilow himself wasn’t in the audience to enjoy it with us.

It is colourful, spectacular ... think of all the superlatives and then some more and you will be close.

Whenever I see a BLOS performance I think they won’t be able to impress me more, but they keep raising the bar. And we should be so proud to have their impressive productions right on our doorstep. I had expected to miss my usual Saturday night “Strictly Come Dancing” fix but I didn’t, because this show had it all – the glam costumes, the vibrant, colourful dancing and nothing beats live entertainment.

“Copacabana” is set in the nightclub of the same name where virtually all the action takes place. Songwriter Stephen dreams of writing a song that will bring him fame and fortune – forgetting his lovely wife Samantha in the process.

He devises a story set in the world famous Copacabana where country girl Lola La Mar arrives seeking fame and fortune and falls for barman Tony. James Cockerill and Sophie Lord play both Stephen and Sam and Tony and Lola and put on a pulsating performance.

Sophie is making her debut in BLOS this week but these two have built up a great rapport after weeks of rehearsals and “Copacabana” shows off their excellent voices.

The story continues with Lola being kidnapped and taken to Havana by mafia godfather Rico, played confidently by Geoff Baron with Ann Mason outstanding as his long-suffering partner Conchita, who he rejects for the younger Lola.

There is a lot of comedy, largely due to the wonderful pairing of Tori Green and David Norris as Gladys Murphy and Sam Silver, who run the Copacabana club, and also play Samantha’s mum and dad.

Following a vibrant dance number set in the Havana nightclub, Lola is rescued from Rico’s clutches and realises her love for Tony, while Stephen realises that dreams are just dreams and his wife Sam is the real love of his life.

This drama is combined with excellent music from an orchestra led by musical director Jonathan Chalker and the dance numbers from the “Copa” boys and girls, the dancers at the Copacabana nightclub, who strut their stuff in magnificent costumes, all spangle, fishnets and feathers.

The dancers have to make so many costume changes, each seemingly more colourful than the last, that it is like a spectacular Broadway production, and it could all have gone horribly wrong, but with this well rehearsed team it didn’t and they pulled it off wonderfully.

Throughout it all director Anthony has created a set that is simplicity personified, but the combination of colourful choreography and costume makes it sparkle. A masterstroke.

It was over all too quickly for me but if you want to see it call the Mechanics box office on 664400. It runs until Saturday.

Margaret Parsons