Review: Allegro: Barry Manilow’s Copacabana, Church Hill Theatre

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Ay, caramba! The Copacabana has opened its doors at the Church Hill Theatre this week. In hot competition with the delectable Loopy Lorna’s Cafe downstairs, it’s offering a side order of music and passion with every bottle of champagne ordered at the bar.

Created in an era when Pina Coladas and mullets were considered high fashion, Copacabana is a musical that owes more to Mills and Boon than Rodgers and Hammerstein. Starting life as a TV movie (yes, it is available in full on YouTube – the El Bravo antics a masterpiece in 80s cheese) based on Barry Manilow’s song of the same name, the melodramatic tale of Lola and her love Tony evolved over a decade into the stage musical that we now know.

Produced by local amateur group Allegro, the show is set in a glamorous 40s nightclub run by the gruff Sam Silver, played with hair-raising brashness by Malcolm Cannon.

Taking the role of Tony, Stephen-Fraser Jamieson captures the youthful, thoughtful elements of his character and makes a fitting pair with Samantha – Elaine Graham’s folksy, naive Lola.

With no shortage of opportunities for the cast to don tiny showgirl outfits and shake their stuff in sequins, there’s a lot for an amateur crew to really get their teeth into in terms of choreography, costume and set design. Allegro gleefully go to town, pulling out all the stops with teeny tiny lady pirate outfits, dancing she-devils and Carmen Miranda samba shimmies.

The ensemble’s obvious love of entertaining an audience is only slightly marred by their lack of confidence in executing their dance routines. A few more days of practice should see the dancers really get to grips with the material and turn out a more polished performance.

The key element that lets down the production is sound. The band engulfs the choir in a tsunami of sound, in many of the key set pieces the ensemble weren’t so much drowned out as swept over by an enthusiastic wave of music coming from the pit. It’s a resolvable issue that will greatly enhance enjoyment of the show but is something that a reviewer can’t ignore.

Regular audience members, however, get to forget the show’s shortcomings and fully embrace the cheesy jokes, silly lyrics and fabulous outfits for the theatrical joy they are.

Run ends tomorrow