As far as I can tell, the one and only time an Antônio Carlos Jobim song was heard on Broadway was in Twyla Tharp’s “Come Fly Away.” The song was “Wave,” which, as I write this, makes me want to be on a beach right now.
Jobim should have written a Broadway score, but never did. So I’m pleased to report that, 25 years after his death, he will be making his Broadway debut in “Black Orpheus,” a new musical by playwright Lynn Nottage and lyricist Susan Birkenhead.
There was a reading this week that, I’m told, went — let’s catch a wave here — swimmingly.
Based on the 1959 movie, which Barack Obama wrote in his autobiography taught him to embrace his black identity, “Black Orpheus” is on the fast track to Broadway. Reps from a bunch of nonprofit theaters around the country saw the reading and are falling all over themselves to line it up for a tryout, and then invest in the Broadway production.
How could they not?
The director is George C. Wolfe, who staged the original “Angels in America” and went on to run the Public Theater. Along the way, he directed and co-wrote the lyrics to “Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk.”
The choreographer is Camille Brown, who did “Once” and the marvelous revival of “Once on This Island.”
And the producer is Stephen Byrd, who’s given us solid revivals of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” starring Blair Underwood (baring his chest once again in “A Soldier’s Story”) and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” starring James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad and, making his Broadway debut as Brick, Terrence Howard.
The movie “Black Orpheus,” which is based on the Greek myth about some guy who wants his dead wife back (what was he thinking?) introduced the samba to America. And then the song style of Brazil took off. The song “A Felicidade,” one of my favorites, was recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Eckstine and Charlie Byrd.
And “The Girl from Ipanema” is as good as anything Rodgers and Hart ever wrote.
The last time a show with Brazilian music was on Broadway was “Oba Oba” at the Marquis in the early ’90s. I saw it, and I loved it. The dancers’ legs didn’t stop until they hit the floor.
Wolfe should keep that in mind as he shapes his show. It has to be as sexy as a Jobim song, a song that caresses you, leads you to temptation and then lets the chips fall where they may.
One of the most underrated movies of all time is Irwin Winkler’s “De-Lovely,” starring Kevin Kline as the great composer and lyricist Cole Porter. Any fan of “Anything Goes” and “Kiss Me, Kate” should see this 2004 movie. Kline is at his best playing Porter, a gay man struggling to figure out why he desires men but loves his wife. Winkler, who produced “Rocky,” “The Right Stuff,” “Goodfellas,” “The Irishman” and dozens more, says “De-Lovely” is his favorite movie.
I’ll be interviewing Winkler, Kline and their screenwriter, Jay Cocks, at the 92nd Street Y on Tuesday.
It should be fun, since I hear Kline has a few bones to pick with me.
See you there!
“Len Berman and Michael Riedel in the Morning” airs weekdays on WOR Radio 710.
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