Casablanca Steps celebrate 25 years of performance jazz
PUBLISHED: 00:23 22 May 2013
The Cheshire-based Casablanca Steps this month celebrate 25 years of performing their unique style of entertainment to worldwide audiences, including royalty
There aren’t many bands whose members are talented musicians, singers, comedians, jugglers and embody the spirit of the golden era of the 1920s. But the Casablanca Steps do all that, and have done so successfully for 25 years.
The eccentric Casablanca Steps from Cheshire, put their own stamp on the greats from the Jazz age and mix it all with a visual show of dancing, dapper outfits, humour and props. The line-up is Wooten Boetard (Peter Ackerley from Mellor), Clarke Deville (Tony McLaughlin from Stockport) ‘named after Clarke Devillius, Roman emperor of Calcium’; Pico Boon 111 (Matt Owens from Chorlton) and
Archibald Singen-Singen Smythe (Richard Wetherall from Chorlton).
Tony, on guitar and vocals, said: ‘We love the whole package: the fashion, the style, music and glamour of the 20s. It really was a golden era, an eccentric era, like us. Our personas are so important. We are four individual characters, not just people dressed up. We’re like a ‘20s version of Madness.’
The group played their first gig in 1988, with Peter on trombone and vocals and Tony on guitar and vocals. Tony believes the Casablanca Steps was what he was always going to do: ‘I think I was born with a centre parting and wearing a pair of spats.’ The line-up may have changed a little over the years, but Matt (double bass) and Richard (piano and vocals) have now been playing with the band for over seven years.
Tony said: ‘Over the years when we’ve auditioned for new members, some people just haven’t understood us or realised how versatile they need to be. It was like Britain’s Got No Talent.’
Influenced by the tight vocal harmonies of the Mills Brothers and the Ink Spots, Al Bowlly’s crooner vocals, Spike Jones, Nat King Cole and most of the big band and high society music of the ‘20s and ‘30s, the group have taken their high-energy, laugh-out-loud shows around the world. From playing at festivals and on cruise ships, to entertaining celebrities at private parties and even royalty at St James’s Palace, the group really have been there and done that.
‘We played a private cabaret show for the Duke of Edinburgh at St James’s Palace. We have a routine with hats and balls. Usually we put the balls in a particular region and we didn’t know whether to do it or not in front of Prince Phillip. Needless to say we did, and he loved it. He laughed his socks off and we weren’t sent off to the Palace prison for execution,’ laughed Tony.
They have played for the likes of French and Saunders, Judi Dench, Mark Owen, Jasper Carrot, Prince Michael of Kent, Sir Geoffrey Howe, Thora Hird, Francis Lee and Robert Powell to name a few. James Bourne of Busted fame is also a fan and goes to watch the group’s Chelsea performances every year.
The Casablanca Steps have changed and moulded their shows over time. Peter said: ‘We’re quite wacky but our humorous slant has developed over the years. We played the Edinburgh Fringe festival and needed something to catch people’s attention. You have to bring something new to the table.’ Tony agreed and added: ‘We don’t take ourselves too seriously and really enjoy ourselves, which makes it a lot easier for other people to enjoy themselves at our shows.’
This year continues to bring new things for them. They have performances lined up on the Orient Express, a five-day stint at Henley Festival and a new filming project. After the balls are juggled, the hats thrown, jokes delivered, dance routines perfected and of course the music played, the crowd are always left wanting more. As they said in a famous film, ‘Play it again...’
For information about Casablanca Steps and tour dates visit: www.casablancasteps.co.uk.