It was in the summer of 2010 when we announced that Tony Award winning choreographer and director, Bill T. Jones’ (Fela!) intended to bring Black Orpheus to the Broadway stage as a musical.
Many could immediately picture a stage musical based on Black Orpheus – itself a harmonic piece of cinema history, with the Brazil carnival as a backdrop; it made sense.
Cinephiles rant about Hollywood’s seemingly fading interest in original ideas, opting to adapt already existing works to film (stage plays and musicals, for example); meanwhile, here we have a revered stage director/choreographer working in the reverse – adapting films for the stage (he also announced that he was planning Broadway musical adaptations of Super Fly and Monsoon Wedding – the former is in the works currently).
Skip ahead 2 years to today, with the announcement that Stephen C. Byrd, who last produced the multiracial Streetcar Named Desire revival on Broadway last season, as well as the all-black Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 2008, is developing a new stage musical based on the 1959 film Black Orpheus.
Byrd is said to have acquired the rights to adapt the film, with eyes on Bill T. Jones and Julie Taymor to direct the project.
Byrd has reportedly hired two prominent Brazilian theater directors and writers – Claudio Botelho and Charles Moeller – to finish a script adaptation by the end of this year, for a show that would include music from the original film, with the goal beind to open it on Broadway during the 2013-14 season.
Brazilian entertainment company Geo Eventos, New York theater company Base Entertainment and Alia M. Jones are all on-board with Byrd as producers of the project.
“I’ve seen the movie 25 times, at minimum, and always thought the story was highly theatrical and the music was transfixing… I’m hoping to cast at least the principal roles with well-known Brazilian singers and actors, because I think this show will succeed as long as it’s as authentically Brazilian as possible,” Mr. Byrd said.
That’s good news. I’m sure one fear among theater geeks would be that he’d go the Hollywood route with casting, as he did with the last 2 shows he produced.
The 1959 Marcel Camus classic film is loosely based on Orpheus and Eurydice of Greek mythology, with Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, during Carnival season, as the backdrop. The film’s notable soundtrack, put together by the great Antonio Carlos Jobim (Girl From Ipanema), is credited for single-handedly introducing the Bossa Nova to the rest of the world. It’s also worth mentioning that the film won the Palme d’Or at the 1959 Cannes Film Festival, as well as the 1960 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
The film is available on DVD and Blu-ray courtesy fo Criterion Collection. It’s also available in full on YouTube, which I’ve embedded below, so you can watch it all right now: