So it’s finally happening…
It was in the summer of 2010 when it was first 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, including myself, 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 and still makes sense.
Film lovers 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,on Broadway, we are experiencing the reverse of that – films being adapted for the stage (Bill T. Jones also previously announced that he was planning Broadway musical adaptations of “Super Fly” – which is currently being workshopped – and “Monsoon Weddind”).
Skip ahead 2 years to last year, when Broadway producer Stephen C. Byrd, who last produced the multi-ethnic production of “Streetcar Named Desire” revival on Broadway, as well as the all-black “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” in 2008, revealed that he was developing a new stage musical based on the 1959 film “Black Orpheus.”
At the time, Byrd reportedly hired two prominent Brazilian theater directors and writers – Claudio Botelho and Charles Moeller – to finish a script adaptation by the end of last year, for a show that would include music from the original film.
Brazilian entertainment company Geo Eventos, New York theater company Base Entertainment and Alia M. Jones were said to be all on-board with Byrd as producers of the project.
A question at the time was who would direct, and whether Bill T. Jones was a candidate, given that he had previously expressed intent. Although Julie Taymor was also said to be a candidate for the job.
Skip ahead another 2 years later, to today, to news that Pulitzer Prize-winner writer Lynn Nottage will write the story and Tony Award-winner George C. Wolfe will direct the Broadway adaptation of “Black Orpheus,” as a musical for Broadway. No timetable has been set.
Producer Stephen C. Byrd is still attached to produce, along with Alia Jones-Harvey, and Paula Marie Black. But, clearly, Bill T. Jones is no longer attached to the project.
“We are so thrilled to bring this classic piece of Brazilian popular culture to life on stage,” Byrd said in a statement. “The World Cup is providing a wonderful international platform for Brazil right now, and we look forward to further spotlighting this legacy on Broadway.”
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 of Criterion Collection.
Nottage won a Pulitzer Prize for her play “Ruined.” Her other works include “Intimate Apparel” and “By The Way, Meet Vera Stark.”
Playwright and director Wolfe has won Tonys for “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches” and for “Bring in da Noise/Bring in da Funk.”
As for casting, no news on that front yet. Although I’m sure one fear among theater geeks (especially theater actors) would be that, given producer Stephen C. Byrd’s record, he’d likely lean towards Hollywood for his casting choices, as he did with the last 2 Broadway shows he produced.
Here’s the trailer for the original film: