Sunday, September 13, 2009

Blame it On Rio

As a lover of all things Brazilian and hoping it would light a fire under my muse (I am attempting to adapt a novel which takes place mostly in Rio to a screenplay), it was with relish I looked forward to attending Blame it On Rio at the Hollywood Bowl last night. So far this season I've enjoyed Ultimate Mancini featuring the wonderful magic of Henry Mancini's music, the fabulous stylings of Diana Krall, the master composer/conductor John Williams conducting the Music of the Movies, the musical Guys and Dolls featuring Jessica Beihl, Scott Bakula, Beau Bridges and Brian Stokes Mitchell, and the always entertaining and ethusiastic Liza Minelli in Concert. Each show has had it's own enjoyable charm and, coupled with balmy nights and dining under the stars that only the Hollywood Bowl can offer, they have been a treat.

It was with this same enthusiasm I waited for the Rio spectacular to begin. I was to be disappointed, not at the quality of each star's performances, but at the lack of any real collaboration between Babel Gilberto and Seu Jorge and the Hollywood Bowl Orchastra under the able direction of Thomas Wilkins and, what seemed to me a lack of artistic direction which would have put the gaily costumed dancers, who came out towards the end, to better use. As it was the dancers came across as an afterthought or just so much window dressing . While the raw materials for a terrific show were there, the production was sorely in need of a craftsmen to weave all the disparate parts into a cohesive pattern and offer the real exotic tribute to the magical city I was expecting.

"Close your eyes, for that's a lovely way to be.....aware of things your heart alone was meant to see ." So goes the line from one of Antonio Carlos Jobim's most famous songs and that is the way I feel about experiencing Brazilian music. Well too much of the audience for this show was more interested in shiny gadgets that explode with light rather then seeing (or listening) with their hearts and their interest in the show which, unfortunately, failed to feature at least one song in English, was minimal. Perhaps subtitles on the screens or some videos of Carnival in Rio would have helped to bring them along....but even with the beautiful melodies and intonations of Gilberto's phrasing or Jorge's more upbeat melodies....there was a failure of communication between the audience and the performers and the response needed to reve up and spark the performers was tepid and unenthusiastic. It was a Catch 22 all around.

It's a good thing I was feeling mellow from the wine by this time, but couldn't help reflecting on the fact that too many people only listen with their peripheral mind, too busy and always looking for the next thing they are going to do (much like the woman in the box next to ours constantly checking her e-mail during the show) instead of focusing on and enjoying what is happening in the now. The lack of ability to be somewhere with all of one's senses is unthinkable to me. If one is going to pay good money and devote one's precious least make an attempt to keep one foot in the room, even if that room is the venerable Hollywood Bowl!

I think I'll put Jobim in the player and "fly down to Rio" if only to satisfy my thirst and try to summon the muse again. Blame it on Rio couldn't quite do it.

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