By Maíra Amorim, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – After two films and stage versions produced all over the world, Hairspray, the musical, has arrived in Rio. Carioca playwright and actor Miguel Falabella translated and adapted Mark O´Donnell and Thomas Meehan’s book for a Brazilian audience. The musical opened on July 10 at Oi Casa Grande in Leblon and has conquered the city’s finicky theater critics.
The production is based on the original film from indie director John Waters, released in 1988. The first musical version debuted on Broadway in New York in 2002, and ran until last January. Following the stage success, another film version premiered in 2007, starring John Travolta as the chubby protagonist Edna Turnblad.
Hairspray tells the story of a girl, Tracy Turnblad, Edna’s daughter, whose sole desire is to take part in a TV dance show. The fight for black and civil rights in a very racist Baltimore provides a potent social undertone. All the essential plots and sub-plots are included in the Brazilian version, with an added local touch.
Part of the cast comes from TV Globo, such as soap opera darling Edson Celulari, who gives life to the heavyweight and heavy-handed Edna; Danielle Winits (as Amber Von Tussle); Arlete Salles (Velma Von Tussle) and the young actor Jonatas Faro (Link Larkin).
The rest of the actors – there are a total of 31 on stage – are beginners like Simone Gutierrez. The 29 year-old was chosen from 2,000 wannabes. Her vocal, acting and dancing skills are claimed to be one of the musical’s surprise gems. The girls who play the “Dynamites”, Corina Sabbas, Karin Hils and Bia Martins, are also catching everyone’s attention with their powerful vocal range.
Brazil does not have a tradition of big musical productions. Yet recently a bevy of foreign plays have landed in the country with national adaptations, including “Avenue Q” and “The Sound of Music”. Local writers seem encouraged to make musicals more popular, and have started penning their own original Brazilian productions. A few examples are “Beatles num Céu de Diamante” (Beatles in a Sky of Diamonds), “É Samba na Veia, é Candeia” (It’s Samba in the Veins, It’s Candeia) and “Sete” (Seven).
The Leblon theater Oi Casa Grande has been transformed into Baltimore, circa 1963, with more than 40 scenery changes, 350 lighting set-ups and 100 wigs. A giant wall panel with over 8,000 LED lamps completes the 60s ambiance.
The feared O Globo theater critic Barbara Heliodora wrote a balanced review saying that the spectacle keeps up with the necessary tone and humor. She praised Falabella’s ability to include the American jokes and paint them with Brazilian color.
Other critics have pointed a few negative points about the production, such as the small stage which constricts some of the dance numbers, and some of the translation and adaptation of the songs, which would have lost their comic timing and irony if kept strictly to the English lyrics. Despite one or two criticisms, the reviews have been unanimous in their reporting that the Brazilian Hairspray is both entertaining and well produced.
Teatro Oi Casa Grande
Av. Afrânio de Melo Franco 290, Leblon – Tel. : 2511- 0800.
Until October 4
Thursdays and Fridays at 9PM; Saturdays at 6PM and 9:30PM and Sundays at 7PM
Ticket prices go from R$40 to R$150 and can be bought online at Ingresso.com.