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Producer Stephen C. Byrd In Talks w/ 'Major Director' For 'Black Orpheus' 2014 Broadway Run

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by Tambay A. Obenson
September 25, 2013 10:47 AM
3 Comments
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Marpessa Dawn & Breno Mello In "Black Orpheus"

We are negotiating with a major major director for “Black Orpheus.” It’s a project that’s been dear to my heart for a long time (I’ve seen the movie over 35 times and I can’t see it enough) and it’s never been here in the States before. It’s an iconic project, a Brazilian national treasure, and this will be our first musical. It’s a great love story with great music, and we haven’t seen that with people of color on stage. It has great music; it resonates. We are looking at bringing it to Broadway in the fall of 2014.

Words from Broadway producer Stephen C. Byrd, in a recent interview with Huffington Post Black Voices, on bringing *color* to the so-called great white way.

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, currently, 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 and Monsoon Wedding - the former is in the works currently).

Skip ahead 2 years to last year, when Stephen C. Byrd, who last produced the multiracial 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.

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 are all on-board with Byrd as producers of the project.

A question now is who this "major director" is that Byrd says he's in talks with. Last we reported on this, when Byrd had acquired the rights to adapt the film, he was said to have had eyes on Bill T. Jones and Julie Taymor as candidates for the job. It could be that both are still at the top of his list.

As for casting, no news on that front yet. Although I'm sure one fear among theater geeks (especially theater actors) 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 of Criterion Collection.

The full interview with Huffington Post Black Voices is actually worth a read. It puts you inside Byrd's head - his thinking, his approach, his motivations, etc. Broadway isn't exactly littered with black producers who are able to get productions off the ground and on stage. So, no matter what many think of his past commercial successes, he's certainly someone we should be paying attention to.

Here's a sample quote from the interview that I thought was worth highlighting:

[I] would like to have more African-American actors think about coming to Broadway, as opposed to picking up checks doing pilots. I just think they should really think about, because we don’t really have the depth of the James Earl Jones’ and Phylicia Rashad’s anymore. Anika Noni Rose is probably the youngest and probably last out there. Well, I should say Condola Rashad whose dedicated herself and not taken off to do [a pilot.] I’m thankful for that but we really need are more people who have established names because there are great great great actors, make no mistake in New York on the stage.

 Read it all HERE.

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3 Comments

  • Furtgo | September 26, 2013 2:36 PMReply

    Go ahead, now!

  • Ashley | September 25, 2013 3:55 PMReply

    "As for casting, no news on that front yet. Although I'm sure one fear among theater geeks (especially theater actors) would be that he'd go the Hollywood route with casting, as he did with the last 2 shows he produced."

    Us "theatre geeks" know he's going to go with the "established names" he talks about in that same interview:

    "[I] would like to have more African-American actors think about coming to Broadway, as opposed to picking up checks doing pilots. I just think they should really think about, because we don’t really have the depth of the James Earl Jones’ and Phylicia Rashad’s anymore. Anika Noni Rose is probably the youngest and probably last out there. Well, I should say Condola Rashad whose dedicated herself and not taken off to do [a pilot.] I’m thankful for that but we really need are more people who have established names because there are great great great actors, make no mistake in New York on the stage. "

    I am not bothered by it. They have to sell their show. I'm just happy to see Black Broadway producers LEAD producing shows starring Black people. Kudos to Front Row.

  • Critical Acclaim | September 25, 2013 11:56 AMReply

    This is great news. I hope it happens.

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