Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Anna Copa Cabanna Show

As a child, variety shows filled most of my television viewing time: The Sonny and Cher Show, Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters, The Carol Burnett Show, and best of all, The Muppet Show. These programs informed my idea of what entertainment should be: a glamorous but funny star, à la Miss Piggy, surrounded by talented friends who perform brilliantly but (almost) never steal the spotlight. Where have all the variety show divas gone?

Enter Anna Copa Cabanna.

Anna Copa Cabanna is a self-described Australian go-go dancer, who also sings and plays xylophone. At her recent "Back 2 School" show at the Bowery Poetry Club, she opened with a "Dear Diary" voiceover bemoaning her awful classmates. Swearing she'd get revenge one day as a successful dancer in New York City, she segued into a routine done to Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher." Her four-member troupe, the Copa Cabanna Dancers (Breedlove, Honey Lingus, Mr Miss America, and Tosha Marqee), twirled and jumped around Anna, who tore off her schoolgirl outfit to reveal a white bikini. She'd make David Lee Roth proud.

After the first number, Anna self-consciously tugged at her bikini top, worried that she'd inadvertently flashed the audience. Remember, she runs a variety show, not a burlesque. She then stood at her xylophone and performed Metallica's "Enter Sandman." Of course, the performance drew laughs. But the childlike instrument and Anna's high voice suited the song, making it slightly disconcerting and eerier than James Hetfield's version. Anna also sang original numbers, including "Times Square" ("There's a long-haired jerk playing bad guitar/Says he's a Naked Cowboy/Why is he wearing underwear?"), "Mr. New York," and a rant about someone ruining her dinner at a local Thai restaurant.

Any variety show star knows she's only as good as her guests, and Anna's friends didn't let her down. Breedlove demonstrated he isn't only a talented Copa Cabanna dancer (and not afraid to wear Spandex), but also an accomplished singer. His "Love on the Telephone" was one of the evening's highlights.

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The "Hula-Hoop Harlot," who deftly twirled multiple hula hoops around her arms, neck, torso, and legs to musical accompaniment, gave one of the night's most popular performances. She displayed considerable dexterity and timing, and didn't let a recording glitch throw her off balance.

Another audience favorite was Rachel Trachtenburg, star of her own morning show. The 14-year-old musician accompanied herself on the ukulele as she sang Syd Barrett's "The Gnome." Her mother, Tina, and a friend illustrated the lyrics with whimsical cut-outs on a felt board. Rachel also sang an original number urging New Yorkers to get along with their pigeon neighbors. The pigeons should feel lucky to have such a charming ambassador.

Some performances ended up more miss than hit. Lady Starlight's black-light dance didn't inspire a strong reaction, perhaps because so much of it was in the dark. And punk band The Homosexuals made only a brief screen appearance, despite their billing as special guests. 

There was a considerable amount of self-aware kitsch in the evening's performances, which at times recalled the talent show scene in Donnie Darko. But hipster irony didn't overshadow the performers' considerable talents. Anna and her friends proved it's possible to put on a sincerely good show, even when dancing to "Xanadu."

The evening ended with Anna back in her schoolgirl outfit as she and her dancers cavorted to Adam Ant's "Goody Two Shoes": "Look out or they'll tell you/You're a superstar." It might be too late.

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poster from Anna Copa Cabanna's MySpace page
videos by Kate Deshmukh

1 comment:

Mr Hate America said...

I hear tell that Anna's "Dear Diary" voiceovers were taken from her actual diaries!!

Also, apparently the Homos were at Burning Man?!?! I didn't know people still went to that.