Priscilla 2011 – Sao Paulo

I never meant to go to Brazil.  I’d heard of Rio, of course, and I’m pretty sure I’d heard of Sao Paulo before the Priscilla producers called me two months ago to say I was flying here.  I did not know how to pronounce it, and I did not know the people spoke Portuguese.  I didn’t know that the country has 170 million inhabitants, and Sao Paulo alone has 20 million.  I didn’t know that traffic could be a permanent thing in a city, and that it was natural to take an hour to get home from auditions, travelling at about 5 km/h.  I didn’t know that a way the powers that be chose to solve that issue was to buy the rich helicopters to get around.  I didn’t know that it could be considered normal to pay $40US for any meal you ever chose.  I didn’t know how to direct people in scenes in a language I don’t speak, or how to tell if they’re doing a good job with the acting.  I didn’t know a city could have such a huge divide between the rich and the poor, though of course, my own home city probably does somewhere, I just don’t see it every day.

Priscilla is now turning international and that brings with it a wealth of experiences not just outside my experience, but outside what I knew the limits of my experience to be.  And sitting here at the airport, after a week of learning what I didn’t know, I’m grateful that I have a job that forces me to go outside my comfort zone – admittedly while so much stays the same (I must have given the direction “Marion has a great relationship with Tick, but has to be tough with him, while remaining warm” about five hundred times around the world.  I say it better than that, though it didn’t really matter in Portuguese).

I arrived in Sao Paulo with Andy on Saturday night.  The hotel was lovely, and we got into our best to sample Sao Paulo nightlife, which is quite legendary according to the internet.  It’s also spread out around the entire city (which has five separate CBDs) so is impossible to find once the cab dumps you.  We went to the Oscar Freire area, one of the most luxurious shopping strips in the world.  In the cab ride we immediately learned what we were up against, language-wise.  We had no way of communicating anything – numbers, areas, anything.  It’s quite the experience to be in a city, in the dark, and not have a clue where you’re going.  Especially when you continually hear about the crime in that city.  Eventually we found a few bars and chatted to some people and bit by bit learned those crucial things you need to become comfortable in a foreign city.

Sunday we were taken by our gorgeous producers to a traditional churrascaria.  The experience here, for a meat-lover like I am, was wonderful.  The waiters continually bring cuts of fresh beef, chicken, lamb, pork and more around to your table and you choose what you want until you’re full.  There’s also a ridiculously large and tasty salad bar with anything you could ever want.  And the lethal capirinhas, flavoured with cachaca, the local spirit.  Authentic capirinhas are so lovely and so make my head swim within a few seconds.  Dangerous in a city where you have no way of communicating.

The churrascaria window.

That night we went to a local production of Evita, in Portuguese.  This was once my favourite musical, so I could follow the story fine, and there was some great work in the show.  The Eva was very good, and a number of the cast came and auditioned for us over the course of the week.  We also met our wonderful resident director/choreographer Tania here.  Earlier that day I met our translator, Flavio, who reminded me so much of our beloved Tony Sheldon – being a director, writer, actor and completely knowledgable about the world of theatre.

Then the auditions began.  First day was male auditions for the ensemble.  This was pretty standard – Andy spoke to a huge group, via Tania, and taught them an excerpt of Raining Men and of Les Girls.  We then culled based on look and technique and sang those remaining.  We’re doing Priscilla in a Portuguese translation but with the English lyrics of the songs, as they’re so familiar to everyone in the country.  They’d consider it patronising if we translated those.  So the actors all sing material from the show in English…of sorts.  Those that we liked were given scenes to take away for the callback.  This continued throughout the week with the female cast and principals.  Auditions are very the same all around the world, and this was no exception.  We’ve cast this show four major times, with many recasts, so it’s quite the process now.  The biggest challenge for me was testing their acting when doing scenes in a language I know nothing of (well, that’s not true, I can say thankyou – obrigado).  It was quite the concentration task at first, as I replayed in my mind the English version of the scene as they did the Portuguese – it’s amazing how quickly you learn where the actors are hitting the beats and where they are missing.  In fact, I gave pretty much the same direction that I give all around the world.  Just slower, and via Tania.

A lovely surprise was how good the acting from the ensemble was.  Usually in auditions for the supporting cast you sit through a lot of brilliant dancers and singers who haven’t got that much experience in good acting.  But the Brazilians are pretty wonderful actors across the board.  Funny, truthful and committed.  So though we saw less performers than we often have, the ones we saw were great.

We auditioned in a pretty rough part of town, and day by day we became more comfortable with walking around and exploring.  Like everywhere, you just have to stay smart – don’t wander with your iPhone out, but walk strongly and confidently around.  The people we came across were without fail lovely and helpful and tried valiantly to understand us.  I definitely want to learn more Portuguese before we return for the callbacks, so that I can experience the city a little more comfortably.  Plus I’ve never really paid attention to any of the languages I’ve learned through my life, so this would be the time to develop that skill.

Downtown, the audition venue. Where we don't do Downtown anymore.

There were lots of highlights outside auditions too – we got to see the famed clublife and went to Society, the newest hot club in the city, as well as stumbling into a more casual museum party, where locals come to the museum with their own drinks, and hang around dancing to a DJ provided.  I wouldn’t say that I have much of a sense of the city yet, but I know so much more than when I got here a week ago.  Ciao until August, Sao Paulo.  Obrigado!

Published by bryantandfrank

Dean Bryant and Mathew Frank make musicals. And other things.

One thought on “Priscilla 2011 – Sao Paulo

  1. Sitting in a queensland rainforest reading about our film on stage in the O’Porto lingo, is so like cramming before an exam, but more fun. Love the blog and look forward to meeting you on the 16th. I will remember to stay an uptown gal…
    Rebel Penfold

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