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A CurtainUp Berkshires Review
Scheduling problems and geography prevent my going to Chatham on a regular basis, but I've had enough good times there to recommend at least one visit to anyone from eight to eighty. Many producers working on a tight stage, with a small orchestra and actors still at the beginning of their careers would find it daunting to mount big, multi-set, lavishly costumed shows like My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof and Barnum. However, it is the very derring-do with which the Mac-Haydn's creative teams have staged such classic shows that made them quite special. Instead of being annoyed by the numerous blackouts required to move scenery on and off the stage via the theater's aisles, I've been bowled over by the splendid results that have been achieved.
As the theater has managed to handle these complicated shows with admirable aplomb, it has also attracted enough vocal and acting talent for regulars (the theater has many season subscribers) to have their own list of Mac-Haydn stars. Understandably, some of these actors move on to pursue other opportunities and it's not always possible to get equally strong newcomers in place.
All the above is by way of my first less than totally satisfying experience with a Mac-Haydn musical, Barry Manilow's Copacabana. The show's flimsy book centers on the familiar story of a New York bound small town girl who finds glamour as a nighclub show girl, love with a sweet wannabe tunesmith, and big trouble via a gangster and rival club owner -- in this case the New York to which she comes is that of the swing time forties when Manhattan was awash in famous nightclubs like the real one for which the show and its big hit number are named.
But Barry Manilow and his collaborators are hardly the creative equals of the librettists, composers and lyricists of the earlier mentioned musicals. Whereas those shows were built organically, with solid books and many memorable songs, Copacabana has tried to build a bouncy, best-selling pop tune into a solid musical theater piece.
Not to argue with success, the paper thin, derivative story did make it into a musical that worked as a TV movie (starring Manilow himself as Tony the wannabe songwriter and young Lola's Prince Charming). It also had a full of feathers and glitz run in Las Vegas as well as in London's West End. However, to paraphrase a bit from My Fair Lady's Professor Higgins, I've become accustomed to charms of more enduring Mac-Haydn productions. Copacabana is simply not on a par with those previously seen charmers.
Unfortunately this also applies to the cast. While Lauren Elizabeth Loss who plays Lola is lovely to look at, her voice and dancing are more competent than compelling; the same adjectives apply to Michael Kaczurak's Tony and Tony Guerrero's Rico, the show's villain who abducts Lola to his mob-controlled club in Havana.
Given the size constraints of the stage, Rusty Curcio and John Saunders are to be commended for getting the energetic ensemble to execute production number after production number, but there's a repetitiveness to their routines that even the constant changes into true to the period costumes (and hairdos) can't overcome. The fact that the dancing and singing rarely rises above mediocrity naturally doesn't help.
Not surprisingly, the two best performances come from two Mac-Haydn veterans, the Shook Sister -- Karla as the wise and knowing Gladys and Kelly as Rico's discarded star, a tall, skinny Carmen Miranda type named Conchita. It's these women's generosity and sisterhood with Lola that is the plot's strongest suite, though the borrowing from old Bob Hope-Bing Crosby road movies and countless other sources is rather shameless.
There was a time when there was talk of Copacabana (like Manilow's more recent project, Harmony) going to Broadway, but it never made the leap. I'm afraid, even this enterprising country theater can't turn the fake glitter of this show into genuine gold. Happily, for it's final big show of the season, Mac-Haydn has once again opted to do what it does best, a classic musical by a legendary team-- Brigadoon by Lerner & Loew.
LINKS TO MAC-HAYDN SHOWS WE'VE REVIEWED
Fiddler On the Roof
My Fair Lady