Friday, October 19

Considering "Born to Samba"

Allow me to set the scene for you. I come from small cities. Baudette, my hometown, had a population around 1,400. The auditorium at my Kindergarten through 12th grade school, performed myriad duties as our theater and concert hall and, until the single-screen, second-run Grand Theater was completed in 2001, movie theater. Spokane fairs a bit better, with both community and professional theaters, a fairly decent movie theater that brings in some foreign movies and most everything in wide release, and the INB Performing Arts Center, formerly and always in my heart the Spokane Opera House. Sadly, I did not take as much opportunity of those as I should have for the past two years. Now I am in Munich, a city that has multiple operas, theaters, art museums, movie theaters, everything befitting a cultural center and former home of royalty. It goes without saying that these opportunities excite me very much, and my plan to attend at least two operas, ballets and orchestral performances and a new museum and church every Sunday before leaving in January has been proceeding well.

And so this plan was put in motion with my attendance of the Deutsches Theater's presentation of "Born to Samba" last Thursday. Coming in, my conception of a musical was something along the lines of Sound of Music or Moulin Rouge! where the song and dance numbers exist as a means of pushing a narrative along. "Born to Samba" was more of a World Fair exhibit, proudly displaying the vast range of Brazilian music and dance, from the titular Samba to the jazzier Bossa Nova to the secret martial art Capoeira to other pieces of a more somber tone that I cannot remember, and replete with appearances by former titans of the Brazilian music scene. What narrative there was was provided by an American expatriate, speaking up between songs to say how much he enjoyed a particular genre as a segue way into the next piece. Sometimes he mixed it up by asking the band leader what his favorite music was.

More than anything else, the performance must be called fun. There was such a constant sense of exuberance and celebration in their singing and dancing, that when the dancers were forced into extended choreographed pieces, it felt stifling. When they were allowed to just go with it, the Capoeira piece being the greatest example of this as the dancers pulled off some amazing one-handed, off-balance handstands and flips that traversed the stage, the energy and sheer joy of movement was most overwhelming. Which appears to have been a wasted effort for the crowd. As the friend I attended "Born to Samba" with said, Germans are dry. It took a monumental effort by the cast just to get the crowd clapping, much less moving, to the music for the final reprise. My excuse was that on was on the first floor balcony, and only a minor mishap would have led to some theater patrons having a much more interesting evening than originally anticipated.

There are some things I have always assumed would end with high school, and I would never have to deal with again because things would be more professional then. Things like trashy cafeteria lunches and technical production problems I counted among them. Munich has proven me wrong on these things, the suspect taste of the Mensa's pushing me over to pick up ciabatta at a bakery everyday and "Born to Samba" being hobbled by technical difficulties in its opening numbers. God decided to show his displeasure of the performance by allowing the cast members only a single working microphone for the first few songs, and none of the singers had it for the opening number as the narrator still had it. Of course this just threw the dancers off as they lost their cues and did not know whether they should hurry it up and get it over with. At one point a stage hand literally danced on stage to switch out and test the lead singer's new mircrophone (still malfunctioning), and the single working one was shared between the three singers for the third song. Ridiculous. At least it all was smoothed out before the end of the first act.

All that is left now is to bide my time until "Tanguera," das Tango Musikal direkt aus Buenos Aires, opens this December.

1 comment:

Emmett said...

You sure know how to pick 'em, Chris. You knew something with the title "Born to Samba" would have something go wrong with it, and opening in Germany? I can't say I'm surprised by your post, except for the fact that you're going to climb the rigging again.