(*) Ewa Procter
One might say that I enjoy musicals more than anything else! And this is the reason why I am always reviewing them. This is not really true, although I have been a great admirer of this kind of theatre experience all my life. This brings me memories of my late husband John Procter who had always preferred either opera or straight plays. But I must add that he was not really at all unhappy to accompany me to see those musicals that I so much enjoyed! Either in London or in New York, we always planned an evening to watch something in this line. And here in Rio de Janeiro we also used to see musicals that were on at different theatres.
At this moment, however, I wish to share “Elza” with my readers. And to say that it must be considered as a different kind of musical. “Elza” is homage to Elza Soares, a singer now in her eighties, who is still alive and in full activity.
Elza Soares herself came from a very poor background. Married at the age of twelve, she already had a child at thirteen. At twenty, she had had seven children, two of whom had died in their early childhood. And she was already a widow. At this point, one must remember that Elza Soares always had a very complicated life. But she also had a great voice! She was so gifted, that famous Louis Armstrong wanted to take her to pursue her singing career in the United States.
However, unforeseen circumstances conspired against this opportunity. Elza met and fell in love with famous football player Mané Garrincha, and gave up everything to be with him. It became a big scandal, as Garrincha also left his wife and children to live with Elza. They were so much in the eye of the public, that they ended up by moving to Italy, in order to escape from all the gossip of the Brazilian conservative society of that time that would not forgive two famous people to have this kind of affair. However, Elza and Garrincha also had a very complicated relationship: Garrincha had become an alcoholic, and he ended his life by dying from cirrhosis.
But enough of talking about Elza Soares’ private life. Let us focus on her career, a career that was most successful over the years, as she was a singer who both critics and public enjoyed. Here I quote Sydney Smith (1771-1845) when he said: “Praise is the best diet for us, after all.”
As to the musical “Elza”, I wish to say that it is a very interesting proposition, although quite a different way to approach the personality of Elza Soares. It should be considered more like a show, as it is played by different actresses who take a variety of roles, and also sing during the entire performance: Janamô, Júlia Dias, Késia Estácio, Khrystal, Laís Lacôrte and Verônica Bonfim. But the lead, the one performer who never plays anything, except the role of Elza Soares during the entire evening, is Larissa Luz. And many times her wonderful voice reminds us of Elza Soares herself.
An interesting feature in this musical is that, except for the writer Vinícius Calderoni and the musical director Pedro Luís, the entire live performance has no place for men! It is a “girls only” musical. Besides the singers, also the musicians (Antônia Adnet, Georgia Camara, Guta Menezes, Marfa Kourakina, Neila Kadhí, Priscilla Azevedo) who play live a variety of instruments (including guitar, percussion, trumpet, bass, etc.), are all women. The entire team of these talented girls is under the direction of Duda Maia, the lady director of this musical.
But these ladies do not just perform! The actresses have provided cooperation to the play script as well; and Antônia Adnet and Larissa Luz also did a musical co-direction for “Elza”. So it is their show from beginning to end!
These days, when there is a strong current in Brazil to cast black performers in roles that are not those of either slaves or servants, “Elza” has certainly achieved its goal – and achieved it with flying colors! All seven actresses are of African origin. It would be strange, in my opinion, to portray Elza Soares as a white woman! She is black, and has never pretended being white.
“Elza” plays at the Teatro Riachuelo Rio, on Rua do Passeio, 38/40 – downtown Rio de Janeiro. Performances take place on Thursdays at 07:00 P.M., Fridays and Saturdays at 08:00 P.M., and Sundays at 06:00 P.M. Price of tickets range from R$ 40,00 (forty Reais) to R$ 100,00 (one hundred Reais) on Thursdays and Sundays; from R$ 50,00 (fifty Reais) to R$ 130,00 (one hundred and thirty Reais) on Fridays; and from R$ 50,00 (fifty Reais) to R$ 150,00 (one hundred and fifty Reais) on Saturdays. It lasts for two hours with one interval. Censorship is for young people under the age of fourteen. There is no formal parking at the theatre. However, the Metro station (Odeon exit) is a block away. Also, there are plenty of taxis waiting at the door of the theatre, once the performance is over. The run started on the 19th of July, and is scheduled to finish on the 30th of September. It is worth seeing this show, as it brings the audience a different perspective on a famous Brazilian singer!
(*) Ewa Procter is a writer and a theatre translator, and Chair of the Instituto Cultural Chiquinha Gonzaga.