It may not be the West End, and it isn’t Broadway either, but musical theatre in São Paulo has been hitting the high notes and shaking its jazz hands for the last few years, and the genre’s star is rising and rising. This month, with an impressive six major musical productions on stage, and the opening of the homegrown extravaganza Tim Maia, it’s almost impossible to ignore.
‘The scene has grown over the last decade,’ says João Fonseca, the director of Tim Maia – Vale Tudo, which revisits the life, the overwhelming musical talent and the explosive character of the eponymous Brazilian musician.
The boom in musicals has not only been an education for the public, which is still getting used to the genre, according to Fonseca, but for the professionals, too. ‘At first it was really difficult to find good performers who could sing, dance and act at the same time,’ he says. ‘But nowadays the difficult part is choosing the cast from such a big pool of talent.'
Tim Maia – Vale Tudo is a great place to start if you want to dive straight in at the deep end of home-grown musical theatre. Aside from being a hugely popular musician in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, thanks in part to hit songs like ‘Vale Tudo’ and ‘Do Leme ao Pontal’, Tim Maia is also credited with bringing soul music to Brazil. His big presence (in more ways than one – Maia weighed 140 kilos when he died of a heart attack, aged 55, in 1998) was synonymous with partying, a trait that the musical portrays with gregarious aplomb.
Celebrating yet another of Brazil's musical stars, Nara is a musical that plays tribute to Bossa Nova diva Nara Leão, with a lineup of songs spanning her 25 year career. 'Nara is a genuinely Brazilian musical that doesn’t take Broadway references, but finds its own way’, says the director Márcio Araújo.
Taking its cue directly from its Broadway original (albeit with the dialogue and songs translated into Portuguese) the The Addams Family also takes to the stage in March, with all the familiar names – Morticia, Gomez, Pugsley, Wednesday, Uncle Fester and Lurch – on their liveliest ever form.
|Priscilla Queen of the Desert|
No musical discussion would be complete without mentioning the directors Charles Möeller and Claudio Botelho, who have more than thirty Brazilian productions under their belts, two of which are on this month – Hair and Fiddler on the Roof. The duo doesn’t work with stage franchises – they take ‘Broadway trademarks’ and adapt them freely. ‘Our Fiddler has absolutely nothing in common with the original’, says Möeller. ‘Our stages, our costumes and even the concept are totally different’, he adds.
Foreign audiences might be more familiar with the music of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, based on Stephan Elliot’s 1994 Aussie movie in which a trio of drag performers cruise in a bus (Priscilla) from Sydney to a gig in Alice Springs. Priscilla Queen of the Desert has statistics as fabulous as a drag queen’s stilettos: 200 wigs, 500 costumes, 23 tons of set and an eight-ton bus with 30,000 LED lights. Don’t expect any Aussie twangs – the dialogue is all in Portuguese – but do expect dazzling costumes, a camp spectacle and nearly all the original songs (only 4 of the 22 were translated into Portuguese). Here’s hoping, in the words of the fierce drag queen Felicia, ‘you’ll laugh so hard your lashes will curl all by themselves.’
Fiddler on the Roof is on from 22 March-15 July at Teatro Alfa, Rua Bento Branco de Andrade Filho 722, Santo Amaro, 5693 4000, teatroalfa.com.br. R$40-$230.
Hair is on until 29 April at Teatro do Shopping Frei Caneca, Rua Frei Caneca 569 Consolação, 3472 2226, teatrofreicaneca.com.br. R$130-$160.
Nara is on 10-11 March and 17-18 March at the Teatro Jaraguá, Rua Martins Fontes 71, República, 3255 4380. R$40.
Priscilla Queen of the Desert is on from 17 March at Teatro Bradesco, Rua Turiassu 2100, 3rd floor, Barra Funda, 3670 4100, teatrobradesco.com.br. R$40-$250.
Tim Maia – Vale Tudo is on 9 March-24 June at Teatro Procópio Ferreira, Rua Augusta 2823, Consolação, 3083 4475, teatroprocopioferreira.com.br. R$50-$150.
The Addams Family is on until 29 April at Teatro Abril, Avenida Brigadeiro Luís Antônio 411, República. R$70-$250.