Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Copacabana BLODS De La Warr Pavilion Bexhill on Sea

Bexhill Light Operatic and Dramatic Society (BLODS)
De La Warr Pavilion Bexhill on Sea 
29 Jun - 2nd July 2011

Show seen 29th

This was our first encounter with the BLODS. A production only brought to our attention as we had a friend in the band.

So how was this amateur presentation of Barry Manilow's flamboyant musical?

Actually it was a very good value and enjoyable show. About 1/3 the price of a professional musical but certainly not 1/3 of the quality.

Under the direction of Carl Greenwood the band were great. This was no great surprise as the band members are the same ones who usually support the Eastbourne Stagers and the (also Eastbourne based) Rattonians.

The costumes were impressive and the set basic, but functional. You can't expect more from an amateur presentation.

Acting wise, like most amateur groups, the BLODS clearly know where their strengths and weaknesses lie. Nice choreography, although some of the older gentlemen didn't look like natural dancers. A little 'wooden' in movement I suspect these may be a few of our mature singers rather than specialists in dance.

However, from an acting point of view everybody seemed to be in a role that suited them. Bernard Simon made a fine job of the very comical Sam Silver whilst Kate Dyer took well to the equally humorous  Gladys Murphy.

Joao Rei Villar was a believable rogue and hard man in the role of club Tropicana owner Rico Castelli.

However 3 of the cast really stood out in this show.

Lesley Van Egmond was the perfect choice for showgirl 'has been'  Conchita Alvarez. With a gutsy, feisty performance she was impressive and continued professionally when she somehow recovered her footing after nearly falling down the stairs on set.

The remaining 2 artists I have to say simply stole this production for me. Fortunately those are the lead roles. Charlie Legg as Stephen/Tony Forte and Hannah Bates as Samantha/Lola la Mar.

I don't know about an amateur production. I am sure both Charlie and Hannah could easily appear in a professional production and I'm sure few would notice any lack of experience or ability.

Confident, convincing actors and both vocally impressive I would be really surprised if these two didn't go on to appear in the West End in due course.

However, from my point of view this great amateur production was marred by the most clumsy, noisy set changes I have ever seen, anywhere, in any production, amateur or professional.

Set changes are normally practically seamless with the curtain being brought down whilst props are taken on and off peacefully. Often action takes place on the apron whilst this is being done.

But what a fiasco this was time and time again as the curtain remained up whilst the acting stopped. The voices of the stage hands could easily be heard giving directions, I've heard cast members talk quieter. Bangs and thumps as the larger props were brought on echoed round the auditorium. Props were often forgotten and as they were brought on again voices could be heard even though the stage scene had restarted. Microphones were forgotten to be switched off and "excuse me" requests could be heard in the wings as actors tried to get back on stage.

I understand that the band were positioned in the right wing (looking at the stage). I don't know if this was causing some of the awkwardness in set changes. But if it was I hope it's reconsidered for future productions.

Sadly such unnecessary disruption to what is meant to appear like an interruption free presentation has resulted in me removing a complete star from the enjoyment rating. I've never seen any other theatre or company handle set changes so badly and I hope this is a one-off experience.

However the BLODS themselves did impress us and whilst this was our first viewing of them it certainly won't be the last.

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