I was worried about doing Priscilla in Brasil. The two audition trips had been high on talent and low on enjoyment – basically I remembered traffic, chaos and never wandering far from my hotel. Low expectations can be wonderful, and the two months I spent in Brasil rehearsing Priscilla were easily amongst the best of my life.
From the first minute I arrived at the George V Hotel, I knew things were going to be great. It was a beautiful place, roomy and in a great location – Pinheiros, the Beverly Hills of Sao Paulo. Immediately I stumbled upon Piraja, the local Carioca-style bar, a few minutes walk from the hotel, and halfway between home and the rehearsal venue, in the architecturally superb Tomi Ohtake building. Piraja…I miss it terribly, the great waiters who insisted on speaking Portuguese to us even though they knew we couldn’t understand it, who’d find us a table in the always packed bar, the great steaks and sausages in cachaca, and more importantly, the amazing capirinhas made of cachaca – my favourite drink, I suspect, until the day I or my liver dies.
The weather was beautiful – almost always sunny, with a tropical storm between 4-6pm every day. There was a park fifteen minutes jog away (in Sao Paulo you jog down the grassy area between the lanes – it was quite foresty in there). There was very good coffee next door at Ofner – my best attempts at language were used here; cafe con leite, pra leva, mezjo. (I’m inventing the spelling).
But what made the trip was the people. The cast, of course, but everyone I met in Brasil. I’ve tried to describe what the culture is like to people back home in Australia, but it’s so difficult to get across the genuineness of Brazilians – their sense of fun, the openness, their contact with emotions, their ability to both take things seriously and not too seriously. I’ve never met a people I liked more. And I’m a relatively cynical person. In Brasil I felt like it was a good thing to share, to be friendly up front, to celebrate the life that you’re living every day.
Which makes the country perfect to host Priscilla – a show about celebrating individuality in it’s most fabulous form. I’ve blogged endlessly about the show in so many countries now that I won’t bother talking about the process except to say that it was the easiest rehearsal period I’ve had. Why? Firstly, the actors all got the material – the lead cast were astonishingly good, easily up there, if not superior to, the best in the world. The story made perfect sense when told by then, even the sometime awkward shifts in the the narrative (um…paintbrushes onstage now!) The discipline of the cast was also astonishing – when the actors weren’t being used, rather than gossiping or playing on their iPhones they sat quietly waiting till they were needed, or watched their fellow actors with joy, or just practised a particularly complex piece of choreography by themselves in the corner.
The first run we did of Act One, usually a bit of train wreck was exhilarating. One week in and they’d captured the spirit of the show to perfection. Lots of cleaning up had to occur (I don’t think Andrew ever wants to mention the Cupcake debacles again) but you just knew that they were going to land this show brilliantly. I always looked forward to turning up each day and seeing everyone in the room, and to enjoy exploring the show with them – amazing after six years of turning these scenes over and over.
Credit must go to our amazing producers Almali and Mariana – who, as Andrew often said, showed that the spirit of a company comes from the top: how a team is treated defines how well a show goes. And we were treated as honored guests, something that I will be eternally grateful for. Our Resident Director Tania is gifted in the skills of discipline, diplomacy and direction – I have no doubt she held the focus of that room so that our team could make this show happen, almost unaware of the fact that we spoke different languages.
I am very lucky that I get to work on a show in these countries with these amazing teams, and that I get to spend so much time with the core team of Simon, Andrew and Natalie, three people who are as good a friends as you could ask for, and happen to be stationed with me across the world on this show. We got to share experiences like the famed Carnaval, where the city shut down for five days and the parade exploded at the Sambadromo, going to Rio, one of the most enchanting cities in the world, going to Buenos Aires and soaking in the culture of this globally booming country.
And you leave so quickly. We all had work to get back to – the show opened Friday night, the party started at 1am and by 5am we were on our way to the airport, so that Simon and Andy could get to the first day of Officer and a Gentleman rehearsals and I could get to Josie in the Bathhouse down at the Spiegeltent.
What happens next for Priscilla? No-one knows for sure. There are the three productions running as I write this – Broadway, Milan and Sao Paulo. They got raves in Brasil and the show is selling out – I hope they run a whole year then move to Rio – they really deserve it. But when I next get back on the pink bus is anyone’s guess – it could be as soon as the second half of the year…or never. Brasil was very much a time of celebration, but also of reflection – of how far this one show has taken me around the world and as a person. I have been extraordinarily lucky and Brasil, for me, was the icing on the cupcake. Saude.