THEATRE – Connor gets Going as he ditches Mozart for Manilow

rOLL over Beethoven, and move over Mozart, - it's time for Manilow and Copacabana.

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Connor Going, Leah Blackburn, left, and Michelle McKillop are ready to sing the songs that make the whole world sing
Connor Going, Leah Blackburn, left, and Michelle McKillop are ready to sing the songs that make the whole world sing

A 20-year-old Glasgow University student is swapping classical piano for camp musical theatre as he takes the lead role in Copacabana at the King's Theatre.

Connor Going is donning the flamboyant costumes of Barry Manilow's character, Tony.

The pop tunes about a showgirl called Lola are far removed from the demanding chords the third year student of music and philosophy had to master to pass his Grade 8 piano exam last summer.

"It has been quite a contrast in styles," admits Connor.

"A lot of my training was Beethoven and Mozart, and I have done a little bit of jazz before, but nothing quite as modern as this.

"Barry Manilow gets a bit of mixed press, but I really enjoyed working on the music."

Connor was cast as the leading man in the production despite this being his debut appearance with the Paisley Musical And Operatic Society, a 105-year-old am-dram company.

He was invited to audition for the role by the show's director, Alasdair Hawthorn, who had previously directed him in Footloose, which was staged by Theatre Guild at Eastwood Park Theatre, in Giffnock, last October.

Connor, from Giffnock, East Renfrewshire, played Ren in the role made famous by Kevin Bacon in the 1984 film.

Taking the lead has become something of a calling card for Connor, who twice played Zac Efron's character Troy in High School Musical – once with The Pantheon Club, in May 2011 at the Clyde Auditorium, and as a 15-year-old with a youth theatre company at Eastwood Park Theatre.

What Connor is less accustomed to, however, are the dance routines and flamboyant costumes that go with his current nightclub-set Broadway spectacular.

"I have always enjoyed my dancing, but have never had any dance classes or training," he says.

"We have a fantastic choreographer, Marion Baird, and she has had to give me a little bit of help getting some of the routines.

"I hope the patience and the work she has done with me will pay off.

"The dancing has been fabulous, but it has been the most challenging aspect for me.

"I have had a couple of shirts to try on, which have given me an idea of the flavour of the costumes.

"I am glad they will be putting me in these various shirts rather than giving me the Barry Manilow nose!"

The cast of 35 will put five months of rehearsals into action for six performances over five days, starting tonight.

Connor admits to being disappointed that the company will not have a piano for him to play live on stage.

"There isn't a piano in the King's, which seems slightly odd, so they would have had to bring one in and tune it, at a cost of more than £500," he says.

"I will have a prop of a piano, so at least it should look realistic provided my fingers fall on the keys where they roughly would if I were actually playing."

HIS introduction to performing came in primary one at Hutchesons' Grammar, when he was cast as the lead in a school show.

He began taking piano lessons as a seven-year-old after playing a family piano gifted to his mum, Sheila, by her father.

"My mum played piano and guitar, and my dad played the clarinet when he was younger," says Connor.

"I'm adopted, so I can't account for any biological passing on of musical genes.

"My parents were both very keen on music and enjoyed listening a lot – the household was very musical when growing up.

"They are incredibly supportive of me and my love of music, for which I am very grateful."

At high school, Connor was regularly placed in the top three spots for singing at the Glasgow Music Festival, the annual city-wide schools showcase.

When he completes his Glasgow University studies in 18 months, he hopes to secure a place studying musical theatre full-time.

"There are a lot of good places here with the Royal Conservatoire and Motherwell College," he says.

"I get the feeling that if it is something you are serious about, then London is the place to go just to get yourself totally immersed in meeting people and networking. Obviously it is very competitive and there are no guarantees.

"If I could manage to pay the bills, and make a living out of doing it, then it would be ideal.

"If I can't make my living out of it, then there is always great groups like Paisley Musical And Operatic Society, where I can enjoy performing on an amateur basis."

Connor's biggest fans – his mum, dad James and 25-year-old sister Tara – will be cheering from the stalls when the show opens this evening.

And he thinks their unusual surname could well be an advantage when it comes to applying for an Equity Card.

"There is a famous New Zealand rugby player called Sid Going, but certainly in the UK it is always a name that stands out a bit," says Connor.

"Considering I am going into this industry, it is good to have something a bit more distinctive."

n Barry Manilow's Copacabana, King's Theatre, until Saturday. Tickets, £16–£22, 0844 8717648.

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