They say it never rains but it pours. Using this adage, Music & Dance on the Lagoon was a veritable tempest.
After the buzz of Nigerian Gems, I combined my new love of salsa with my passion for storytelling and wrote a show using dancers to play the characters and a narrator to tell the story. I chose the dances to express a particular emotion, or to further an aspect of the plot, just as songs are used in a musical. My dance teacher, Buddy Agedah, hoped to direct it. For more than a year, we searched for an opportunity to produce it.
Meanwhile, the Lagos Yacht Club held an annual fund-raiser called Music on the Lagoon, based on the concept of Music in the Park, where the audience bring a picnic dinner to eat while watching a concert. Tables and chairs were placed around the yacht club lawn with a barge moored alongside to create a stage. Local musicians and singers performed with an international opera singer. It was one of the social events on the Lagos expat calendar.
In 2008, the organizer decided to take a break. I pounced, and offered to produce a dance show instead.
Our first task was to persuade the yacht club committee that we were capable of the job and to include dance in the format. After weeks of negotiation, they agreed, with two stipulations: less than half the program could be dance and we had to provide an international opera star. Music & Dance on the Lagoon was born.
It was an ideal situation. Buddy and I could focus solely on the entertainment, while the yacht club managed the logistics: the barge, tickets sales, bar, security, parking, promotion, travel arrangements for our star and selecting charity projects for the proceeds. The club Commodore, Richard Willmott, and his wife, Judi, were tireless in their support. Lindy and Ian Edwards (Vice Commodore) were also instrumental; Lindy even took on the role of narrator and stood beside me through the whole experience. The entire committee was engaged.
Our audience comprised an expatriate group from England, USA, Australia, Holland, Norway and more. The average age was around 40-50 years old. They were well-educated, internationally-minded and culturally aware. But no pressure. Ha! Lindy and I agreed it would be preferable to adapt a familiar story, rather than performing an original work, so I wrote a mash up of several known musicals. This was our pitch:
Copacabana … a light hearted tragedy. A crazy mix of musicals played to the tune of “Copacabana”.
Tony manages Copacabana, a Lagos dance club. He aspires to direct a movie with a team from the club—Lola (his wife), Sandy, Roxie and Christian. They persuade Rico, a Nollywood producer, to finance the production.
Roxie and Sandy vie for Rico’s attention and the lead part in the movie. The characters compete for success in a tale about love, ambition and jealousy.
To abide by the yacht club’s request to have at least half the show as live music, I included characters who were the Copacabana’s regular performers—the jazz band, A-cubed, and five male vocalists, the Vocal Streams.
The mandate for finding an international star was more challenging. How on earth was I going to pull an opera singer out of thin air? The answer came in a case of three degrees of separation—my father in Australia, a Rotarian, knew another club member whose daughter was a singer living in London. Seija Knight graciously accepted our offer and agreed to perform pro bono. We began the arduous visa application process.
By September 2007, the yacht club requirements had been fulfilled, the date was locked in for February 2008, the story was written and Buddy had sourced the dancers. Nothing, and I do mean nothing, had come easily, but five months out, our plan was on track. What could possibly go wrong? As it turns out, everything, and I do mean everything.
Stay tuned for the next installment, Blame It On The Tango.