Full Synopsis

Full Synopsis

Act One

As the lights come up ("Overture"), we enter a dreamlike scene of an elegant nightclub, circa 1940s. Showgirls, busboys, G.I.s, waitresses and the entire company are revealed in a frozen stage picture. In the center (back to audience) is Stephen, a young songwriter (and our guide for the evening). We are in the Copacabana of his imagination, populated by characters of his invention. As his studio takes shape before him, the cast animates and begins to dance to, and sing full-out, a song that is waiting to be born ("Copacabana").

Just at the number's climax, a swank Manhattan apartment set rolls out, and it is present day. Stephen's wife, Samantha, is heard, snapping him back to reality. She reminds him that her parents will be arriving soon and he needs to get ready. Stephen turns back to his keyboard and drum machine while Samantha bemoans that he looks more longingly at his machines than at her.

Stephen's song begins to take shape as he decides that it will be about a showgirl at the Copa – the glamorous nightclub of 1947 – just after World War II. Her name is Lola La Mar from Tulsa, OK, and she has "Just Arrived" at Grand Central Station, suitcases in hand and a dream in her heart, along with many other young women from across the U.S. Stephen is pleased with his creation so far and, as he dashes into the wings, a driving, big-band drum beat is heard while the glamorous Copacabana takes shape. Copa Boys begin entering the stage, and we hear Stephen's voice introduce Tony, a songwriter by day and an employee in the world-famous Copacabana by night. Led by Tony, the Copa Boys sing and dance their way through "Dancin' Fool."

Just then, Lola enters the club, trying unsuccessfully to blend into her surroundings. She asks to see the manager and, with the help of Tony and Gladys, the worldly cigarette girl secures an audition for the next afternoon with Sam Silver, the Copa's no-nonsense manager. As Tony watches Lola leave, he senses that he's smitten and sings "Sweet Heaven" with the Copa Boys and Girls.

The next day, Tony and Lola go on several rounds of separate auditions, none successful for either. Outside of the Copa later that afternoon, Lola commiserates with Gladys about her awful audition experiences, and Gladys tries to offer her advice ("Copa Girl"). Inside, a rehearsal is going on and tables are being set for the evening. Lola asks Sam Silver about her audition for him and, since she does not have an accompanist, Tony offers to play for her. Sam sits as Tony goes to the piano with Lola's music, her original song and arrangement from back home. She begins the same way that she has done so for all of the other (unsuccessful) auditions. When Sam stops her, Tony interrupts and asks for a chance to do it again – a bit differently this time. He quickly coaches Lola on what to do, and she timidly begins "Man Wanted," but becomes bolder as it progresses, even dancing during the number. She gets the job and, impressed with Tony, as well, Sam tells him that he's back in the show.

Lola and Tony are both thrilled, and Lola flirts with Tony, asking him to show her how he writes a song. Tony takes the bait and begins composing a song ("Who Needs to Dream"), becoming more earnest and serious as he sings to Lola. The song culminates with the two embracing passionately.

Stephen's voice is heard again as he introduces new characters to the story. Rico Castelli, a diamond-wearing, smooth, gangster-type enters the club with Conchita, his Latina bombshell girlfriend, and a couple of his goons. They sit down-front and watch the Copa Girls perform "I Gotta Be Bad," starring Lola. Rico cannot take his eyes off of her and invites her to join him for a drink after the show. She proceeds to get drunk on champagne while Rico tries to convince her that she should come with him to star in his club, The Tropicana, in Havana, Cuba. During a performance of dancing Bolero couples, Rico sings "Bolero d'Amore" and drugs Lola, carrying her away as the scene changes from New York to Havana... and Rico's bedroom. Stephen appears and gazes at Rico, but is powerless to stop the scene that is taking place.

Act Two

Although we hear Samantha's voice calling to Stephen, his evolving story continues, taking us inside The Tropicana Night Club in Havana. Looking extravagantly sexy, Conchita enters and welcomes everyone with "Havana / Caramba," backed up by The Tropicana Boys. Rico tells Conchita that he wants to revive the number that made her famous, "El Bravo," but he wants to make Lola the star this time. This crushing news more than angers Conchita, and her jealousy pushes her to "talk" to Lola.

Back at the Copacabana in New York, Gladys is tending to Willy, who is battered and bruised from Rico's goons. A cop is talking to them about what happened when Sam enters, hears the story and joins in. When Tony enters and hears the same, he knows that he must save Lola and rushes off. Sam and the others now realize the danger that both Tony and Lola are facing ("Who Am I Kidding") and Sam decides to go to Havana, too.

In Havana, Conchita is able to get rid of the bodyguard and enter Lola's room. As Lola awakens slowly and groggily, Conchita realizes that Lola truly has no idea what has happened and has no designs on Rico whatsoever. In fact, when Rico comes into the room, she pulls away from his advances, making him think that Conchita has been "telling her stinking lies again." Rico angrily sends Conchita out and, before leaving, himself, he grabs Lola to tell her in no uncertain terms that she will learn to like her situation with him. Lola trembles on the bed ("This Can't Be Real"), and we soon see and hear Stephen in his studio, getting caught up in the scene – joining with Lola in a kind of passionate dream ballet.

Conchita is preparing to rehearse "El Bravo" when Tony gets her attention from behind a curtain. She knows that it means trouble for her, but she helps him devise a plan to rescue Lola without Lola's knowledge. Several nights later, the performance of "El Bravo" begins, with Lola and the chorus of Pirates onstage at The Tropicana. At the appropriate moment, Tony swings onstage as El Bravo, and total chaos ensues: Rico leaps onstage, Sam directs Tony and Lola to follow him, Rico grabs Lola, points his gun at her head and then turns the gun on Tony. A single shot rings out, but it is Rico who falls to the ground. Conchita enters with a gun in her hand and kneels over Rico's body.

Tony and Lola revive Sam, who tripped and knocked himself out in the ruckus, and convince him that he was the hero who saved them. As they all leave for New York, Tony and Lola realize that they are truly in love ("Sweet Heaven"). During the song, we are transported back to the Copacabana as the Copa Boys and Girls join Tony and Lola for a grand performance.

Stephen's studio rolls on, with the drum machine playing again. As he switches the machine off, he pulls Lola's feather from his pocket and hears a montage of voices from his creation. As Samantha enters in a dress that is the modern equivalent to one of Lola's, we see her face clearly for the first time – she is a dead ringer for Lola. This vision jars Stephen back to reality, but, before he can act on it, Samantha's parents arrive, looking and talking exactly like Gladys and Sam from Stephen's creation. All of this makes him realize that everything he wants and needs is right in front of him – most of all, the girl of his dreams, Samantha ("Finale Act Two"). Although now firmly in the present day, Stephen will always remember the music and passion of the Copa ("Copacabana Finale").