BREJEIRO: THE BRAZILIAN MUSICAL
Spoiler alert: this is not a musical in the accepted sense. There’s no storyline with actor/singers serenading each other and falling in love, or going on about lonely goatherds on hills. Rather this is an education in the story of Brazilian popular music over the last 150 years or so. But this is no dry history lecture, oh no; though it does have a narrator to take us through. Dryness is totally avoided here by the music that illustrates the story, played by a six-piece combo of incredible talent, sitting at the back of the stage like some Brazilian–style re-incarnation of the Buena Vista Social Club. At the back of the stage, because on the front of the stage, and occasionally on the floor in front of it, appear from time to time the dancers of the Movema dance company – in particular Penny and Dennis, who give vigorous demonstrations of various dance styles, some of which you may have heard of, some – Maxixe, Lundu – youmay not. This whole thing is the brainchild of Mike Pryor, who you may have seen in the notable Bill Smarme and the Bizness. But this is not a comedy act; just a passionate evocation of music that he has come to love, with a bunch of other musicians of huge talent. Particularly notable are Rachel Wall on flute and wonderfully impassioned Portuguese vocals; Katie Stevens’ soaring clarinet; Knud Stuwe on piano, and also guitar – particularly in a beautiful Villa Lobos piece.But they are all virtuoso performers. Some things work not quite so well: trying to get an English audience to sing along in Portuguese is a big ask; and repeated suggestions that the audience might want to get up and dance doesn’t produce much response. Not that the music isn’t toe-tapping, but attempting to follow Movema’s demonstrations makes one a bit sheepish about getting on the floor. As this is a first performance preview of the show, the overall production is unsurprisingly not overly slick yet; but hey, the music is impeccable and that’s what matters. All told, a hugely enjoyable evening.
John Christopher Wood