Friday, 30 November 2012

Return of Exeter University Footlights - 'Copacabana' Exeter Northcott Theatre Wednesday 23 January 2013

Exeter University Footlights Society
(back in June 2012)

One outstanding feature of the week of music and theatre at the end of the 2012 university summer term  was a fabulous performance by Exeter University Footlights of Steven Sondheim's 1973 Broadway musical 'A Little Night Music'.

A Little Night Music

Rosie Frecker & Charlotte Monk-Chipman
Director and Producer
Stephen Sondheim's 'A Little Night Music'

During the final weeks of the 2012 summer term, a theatrical spectacular was reaching completion at the Students' Guild. Footlights Musical Theatre Society Producer Charlotte Monk-Chipman obtained funding from the 'University of Exeter Annual Fund' to stage a gorgeous production - in a gorgeous location.

Reed Hall, which was once a student hall of residence (lucky students!) is now a plush wedding and reception venue. With the help of the Annual Fund, and a concessionary student rate, the Guild were able to hire the hall for four nights (4-7 June). The setting was perfect for their musical - Stephen Sondheim's 'A Little Night Music'.

Director, Rosie Frecker, really made the most of the performance area. With the audience on both sides of the reception hall, the actors gave a 'traverse' performance - a very intimate experience, where the observer is drawn into the action, which was disconcertingly natural and realistic - even when the students broke into song! There are many memorable numbers in Sondheim's musical, but the first half closer really took the prize - 'A Weekend in the Country'!

The musical accompaniment was top quality, of course. Instrumentalists from the Exeter University Symphony Orchestra played from a perfect position in the extension of the room behind the audience. Discreet but very effective. The orchestra included Phil de Iongh's double bass and Oli Ritchie's harp - perfect! 

Two experienced musical actors
Stephanie Lysé and Jonathan Wood
Stephanie was Mae Coleman
in 'Reefer Madness'
(Student Guild Shotgun Theatre Company)
Jonathan was Bunthorne in 'Patience'
(Gilbert & Sullivan Society)
The main protagonists:
Ed Johnson and Antonia Vickers are
Frederik Egerman and Desiree Armfeldt
Their farcical romance won the hearts
of the entire audience

Another touching romance
Egerman's son Henrik (Dave Wall)
is a confused curate, in love with
Egerman senior's second wife Anne
(Katie Thomas)

Three generations of Armfeldts
Desiree and daughter Frederika
(Phoebe Mulcahy) under the
watchful eye of grandmother
Madam Armfeldt (Rosamund Frost)
- imperiously clicking her fingers
at her attendant Fred (Will Kellerher)

The count considers his wife 'irrelevant'
(when she's not around)
and resents Egerman's affection for
'his' mistress, Desiree.
Egerman can't see what
all the fuss is about

Unintentionally comic,
the incredibly pompous
Count Carl-Magnus Malcolm
(Nick Kenchington)
is easily cut down to size
by the withering wit of
Countess Charlotte (Rosie Archer)

At Supper, Countess Charlotte
completes Carl-Magnus' humiliation.
However, Madam Armfeldt's
very special Belgian wine
is about to have devastating effects.
Now read on . . .

Now read on . . . 2013

Since the return of the students in September, Footlights have managed to prepare another amazing musical for us - Barry Manilow's 'Copacabana'. Following his hit song of the same name - based on Alfred Green's 1947 movie starring Groucho Marx and Carmen Miranda - Manilow was persuaded by Dick Clark Productions to collaborate with Bruce Sussman and Jack Feldman on the 1985 CBS television remake starring Barry Manilow and Annette O'Toole as the newly invented characters, Tony Starr and Lola La Mar. RCA brought out the movie soundtrack as an album the same year.

The stage version, which opened at 'Caesar's Circus Maximus' in Atlantic City in 1990, included the original 'Copacabana' theme, some extra songs which had been included in the 1988 CBS special, and some brand new songs like Lola's 'Just Arrived'. In 1994 it was extended into a full-length musical which was first performed at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth (Devon!) and played in the West End two months later - followed by another album of songs performed by the London cast. An American version of the musical ('Barry Manilow's Copacabana, A New Musical') was put on by the Civic Light Opera in Pittsburgh PA in 2000, and a Swedish version, with the songs translated by Swedish lead, John Martin Bengtsson, at  the Växjö Konserthuset, Småland, in 2005. In 2006 licences were made available for schools and colleges to perform the musical.

The version Footlights will perform ('A New Musical' 2000) will, thankfully, be in English. It will include additional characters Stephen and Samantha who live in 1985 Manhattan. Stephen is trying to write a screen play, and his imagination takes him back to 1947 and the story of Tony Starr and Lola La Mar in the Copacabana Club (played by the same two characters). By clever manipulation of sets and costumes, Simon is then able to narrate the story of  Tony and Lola. Although the Copacabana club is in New York, the action moves to another nightclub in Havana, Cuba - the Tropicana, run by Rico Castelli.

Castelli is possibly a play on the name of  Raúl López del Castillo who became prime minister of Cuba in 1947 - which was only six years before Fidel Castro's attack on the Moncada barracks in Santiago which led to the Cuban Revolution. Back in 1947, when László Vadnay wrote the original screenplay, he knew nothing of Fidel Castro. Manilow, writing in 1985, would have had the whole history of the revolution in mind - including the 1980 refugee crisis, when 125,000 'Marielitos' escaped the Castro regime, at great personal cost, to live in the United States. In the circumstances, it seems strangely insensitive of Manilow to create a criminal character with a name so similar to the pre-Castro prime minister of the time. On the other hand, Manilow, perhaps wisely, left out any reference to The De Castro Sisters (Babette, Cherie and Peggy) who featured in the original film.

Kath Darke is the producer and Ed Johnson is the director for this year's Footlight's production. Cam Jones is Tony. Jess Philips is Lola. You can see them at work at Kay House in tunathegreat's video.

To launch the show, and raise funds the cast and crew were at '44 Below' in Queen Street, Exeter, on Sunday 28th October for 'Copa Cocktail Night'. The staff invented the 'Copa Cocktail' which will be on sale until the show starts on Wednesday 23 January. (Sorry, free cocktails were only available at the party!)

This production is moving from the luxurious and intimate venue of Reed Hall to the big stage of Exeter Northcott Theatre - also on the University Campus. The show will run from 23rd-27th January 2013 (Wednesday - Saturday). Tickets are already available form the Northcott Box Office - telephone 01392 493493. Find out more and check up on the progress of production at the Footlights Facebook Page.

Exeter University Footlights
present 'Copacabana'
Exeter University Footlights Society
Exeter Northcott Theatre
Wed-Sat 23-26 January 7.30pm
producer: Kath Darke
director: Ed Johnson
Tony Starr: Cam Jones
Lola La Mar: Jess Philips
Tickets: £10-16
Northcott Box Office: 01392 493493
(Footlights facebook page)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Luch, Footlights love this blog about us! If you ever want to come along to gain any more information about Footlights and Copacabana then get in contact with us either via our facebook page or emailing us at