7 – The Musical

‘Through the Dark of Night’ (‘Pela Escuridão’) — The Songs of ‘7 – The Musical’ (Conclusion)

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Amelia in 7 - The Musical (Moeller-Botelho-Motta)
Amelia in 7 – The Musical (Moeller-Botelho-Motta)

Make a Wish (On Second Thought, Maybe Not!)

 On this day after Christmas, what better way to celebrate the holidays than with a song on your lips! Better yet, the Songs of 7 – The Musical (7 – O musical), the adult-themed theater piece written and produced by the Brazilian musical “Dream Team” of Charles Möeller, Claudio Botelho and Ed Motta.

Back, by popular demand, are the English lyrics to the Second and Final Act of this unforgettable musical theater extravaganza, first staged in Rio de Janeiro on September 1, 2007:

  

ACT TWO

"The Heart in the Forest" - Clara, Bianca, the Dwarfs
“The Heart in the Forest” – Clara, Bianca, the Dwarfs

“A HEART IN THE FOREST” (Young Men, Clara)

THERE’S A WOUNDED HEART IN THE FOREST

THERE’S YOUR PRINCE CHARMING

A PUMPKIN, A COACHMAN

A CLOCK WILL STRIKE AT TWELVE

A CALENDAR THAT READS OF SEVEN

 

THERE’S A WOUNDED HEART IN THE RAINSTORM

FROGS THAT GO LEAPING

RIGHT OUT OF THE OCEAN

SO WHAT’S YOUR HEART’S DESIRE

WHEN THE CLOCK WILL STRIKE THE HOUR?

 

HUNTER WITH A HORN

RIDER ON HIS HORSE

WHO WILL THEN INVADE MY BASTION?

AND WHEN WILL HE ENCHANT ME WITH FEELING,

ARDOR

PASSION

 

AH AH AH AH AH AH …

 

HUNTER WITH A HORN

RIDER ON HIS HORSE

WHO WILL THEN INVADE MY BASTION?

AND WHEN WILL HE ENCHANT ME WITH FEELING,

ARDOR

PASSION

 

"Mop That Dirty Floor" - Clara
“Mop That Dirty Floor” – Clara
  1. “MOP THAT DIRTY FLOOR” (Clara)

MOP THAT DIRTY FLOOR

TRA LA LA LA LA

SAID THE WICKED OLD STEPMOTHER

LOCKS HER UP, THEN SHUTS THE CUPBOARD

 

TIDY UP THAT ROOM

TRA LA LA LA LA

MAKES SNOW WHITE A CLEANING SERVANT,

WASH THAT WINDOW, CLOSE THOSE CURTAINS…

"Little Baby at My Door" - Dona Rosa, et al.
“Little Baby at My Door” – Dona Rosa, et al.
  1. “LITTLE BABY AT MY DOOR” (Rosa, Carmen, Odette)

A LITTLE BABE

CAME KNOCKING AT MY DOORSTEP

LOVELY

MAGICAL

A LITTLE BUD

THAT FLOWERED IN MY GARDEN

FRESH AND

BEAUTIFUL

LIKE A BLOSSOM ON THE FLOOR

LITTLE BABY AT MY DOOR

 

I CAN SEE HER DIAPERS PILING HIGH

HER BABY FOOD CAME SPITTING UP WITH SIGHS

SAY HELLO TO ALL YOU COLDS AND SORES

ALL THOSE SLEEPLESS NIGHTS GALORE!

 

A BABY GIRL

THAT’S LANDED ON OUR DOORSTEP

GORGEOUS

MIRACLE

A SWEET BOUQUET

THAT OCCUPIED MY SUNSET

LIVELY

LYRICAL

 

THE RAIN AND THUNDER

CRASHED UPON MY HEAD

HER TINY HAND IT WAS

THAT CHOSE INSTEAD

SHE ARRIVED, I THRIVED

SHE CAME, I CRIED

SHE’S MINE, SHE’S MINE

ALL MINE – ALL MINE!

 

"Oh, Look at Me" - Amelia, the Dwarfs
“Oh, Look at Me” – Amelia, the Dwarfs
  1. “OH, LOOK AT ME” (Amelia)

OH, LOOK AT ME

I IMPLORE YOU

ALL THAT’S IN ME

BEGGING FOR AID

FROM YOU

FROM YOU

 

WHAT DID YOU SEE?

MY LIFE AS IT WAS THEN

MY TRUE SELF

MY DARK SIDE AS WELL

MY CALM, MY CALM

 

SO TAKE ME AWAY

IN A CARRIAGE

TAKE

ME AWAY FROM THE BALL THIS NIGHT

THE DAWN

 

TIME PASSED ME BY

AND MY FATE HAS BEEN TOSSED

AT YOUR FEET

 

TAKE CARE OF MY NIGHTS,

NEVER RESTING

ALL THAT’S IN ME

TREMBLING WITH LOVE

WITH LOVE

TRUE LOVE

 

TELL ME I’LL BE

YOUR SLAVE AND YOUR SERVANT,

A LOYAL MAID

FAITHFUL AND TRUE

SO TRUE

SO TRUE

 

AND SO

NOTHING’S LEFT THAT MATTERS

COME

AND THE DOORS WILL BE CLOSING SOON

SO SOON

 

COME, HURRY, OH HURRY, TAKE CARE OF ME

TAKE CARE OF THE HURT THAT AILS ME INSIDE

OH HURRY, BE QUICK FOR THE SUN HAS COME OUT

ALL THAT’S LEFT FOR ME HERE IS TO HIDE

COME AWAY

 

COME AWAY

AWAY

 

 

  1. “HERCULANO’S SECOND LULLABY” (Herculano)

MOMMY’S ON HER WAY

TRA LA LA LA LA

SHE’S JUST COMING ‘ROUND THE CORNER

DADDY SINGS SO BABY’S CALMER

 

BEWARE THE WITCH

SHE’S ON HER WAY

SHE WILL BITE YOU

SHE WILL GRAB YOU …

 

WATCH HER CLOSELY

 

 

  1. “HE’LL ARRIVE ON TIME” (Amelia, Bianca)

LIKE THE DAY OF A WEDDING

LIKE THE END OF A SEASON

LIKE THE SMILE ON A BABY

LIKE THE SWEETS AT A BANQUET

LIKE A BREEZE FROM THE OCEAN

 

HE’LL ARRIVE ON TIME

HE’LL ARRIVE, I KNOW

 

HE WILL WIPE AWAY

MY TEARDROPS

ALL MY SORROWS, ALL

ALL OF THEM

 

HE’LL ERASE FROM ME

 

HE’LL ERASE FROM ME

 

MARKS OF MY DESPAIR

 

MARKS OF MY DESPAIR

HE WILL WIPE THEM CLEAN

 

THEY’LL BE WIPED AWAY

 

THE SHADOWS

FROM THIS FACE OF MINE

 

SHADOWS

 

FROM THIS FACE

Clara & the Seven Young Men (aka Dwarfs)
Clara & the Seven Young Men (aka Dwarfs)

 

  1. “MY HEART ON YOUR HEART” (CLOSING NUMBER: Amelia, Old Mistress)

MY HEART ON YOUR HEART

MY KINDNESS, MY PASSION, MY ALL

THE MOON IN THE SKY

WILL RISE AGAIN TONIGHT, MY HEART

 

THE ONE I ADORE…

 

MY HEART ON YOUR HEART

MY KINDNESS, MY PASSION, MY ALL

THE MOON IN THE SKY

WILL RISE AGAIN TONIGHT, MY HEART

 

THE ONE I ADORE!

 

The Women of 7 - The Musical
The Women of 7 – The Musical

 

Curtain

 

T H E   E N D

 

Book by writer/director Charles Möeller

Portuguese Lyrics by musical director Claudio Botelho

Music by singer/composer/performer Ed Motta

English translation and English lyrics by Josmar Lopes

 

Copyright © 2016 by Josmar F. Lopes

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Brazilian Dream Team — Möeller & Botelho (Part Three): Celebrating 25 Years of Making Beautiful Musicals Together

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Brazilian Dream Team: Charles Moeller & Claudio Botelho
Brazilian Dream Team: Charles Moeller & Claudio Botelho

Time to Remember…

A lot has happened in Brazil these past few months. Why, the headlines of the major news organizations are filled with the goings-on from below the equator. The problem is they haven’t been on the positive side of things, if reporters and media pundits are to be believed.

From the political crisis involving President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment proceedings to the worst economic downturn in nearly a century, Brazil has been reeling from a plethora of terribly bad to steadily worsening bulletins.

Unemployment is up, while GDP is down. Despite claims to the contrary, the Zika virus continues to worry athletes and participants of the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympic Games; while the threat of bacterial infections has raised concerns with World Health Organization officials over the growing unsanitary conditions found in Rio’s Guanabara Bay.

Add to this the increasing climate of violence due to widespread police killings; the mind-blowing and ever-expanding corruption scandals at all levels of government; the shortage of available housing brought on by the massive number of evictions from Rio’s poorest districts; delays in construction and infrastructure projects that have led to cost overruns and overly optimistic projections of a return on the government’s investment.

All these factors have contributed to the disquiet and unrest that have gripped the Brazilian nation for well-on two years now.

Despite the gloomy forecast, there remains one bright spot — an oasis in the desert of political and economic instability — and that is, the continuing esteem Brazil’s musical theater has been held in by the paying public. It’s as if those MGM wartime musicals had been recreated strictly for the Brazilian market, in the way they used to divert audiences from the horrors of real life.

Today, this has been made possible by the presence of two uniquely talented individuals.

I’m referring, of course, to the Brazilian Dream Team, that dynamic duo of the Rio stage, the “Kings of Musical Theater”: director, writer, costume and set designer Charles Möeller and musical director, translator, adapter and lyricist Claudio Botelho.

I’ve given extensive coverage to Charles and Claudio’s efforts in this vein ever since I began corresponding with the “Boys from Brazil” back in October 2010, and regularly after I had met them in Manhattan in September 2011. Their work, in particular a remarkably entertaining and thoroughly absorbing theater piece named 7 – The Musical, left no doubt they were on the cusp of international stardom.

It happened that at the end of December 2015, Charles and Claudio celebrated their 25th season together as working partners and business associates. In recognition of their hitting the quarter-century mark — and in expectation of bigger and better productions on the immediate horizon — the pair granted a year-end interview to Rio de Janeiro’s Globo News.

After perusing their comments and listening to the enthusiasm they appear to express when discussing their chosen profession, I’m sure readers will agree that with Möeller and Botelho, the sun will always come out on their shows — if not tomorrow, then the day after.

And the day after that and the day after that … And boy, do we need it now!

Recounting the Duo’s Success Which Led to 38 Hit Shows

Spring Awakening, staged by Moeller & Botelho, with Leticia Colin & Rodrigo Pandolfo
Spring Awakening: staged by Moeller & Botelho, with Leticia Colin & Rodrigo Pandolfo

One is sarcastic and self-contained. The other is open and expansive. The very different and quite opposite personalities of these two gentlemen prove that Charles Möeller and Claudio Botelho were born to complement each other as they embarked on a direct path to success.

They’re celebrating 25 years of a professional partnership that has borne such marvelous fruit as Cole Porter — He Never Said He Loved Me and Spring Awakening. There have been nearly 40 works signed off by the team that has also given birth to numerous other partnerships in their field: iconic actors and actresses, as well as those they have seen rise to stardom.

Here is the most recent conversation with this accomplished Carioca twosome that has become a reference point in the genre of musical theater in Brazil.

Trade Secrets

Charles Möeller: The secret of a professional relationship is in knowing when to pick your battles. The argument is the most beneficial thing that exists in a relationship because it can determine who gets the last word. When you realize there’s something bigger at stake and come to believe that it’s really worth fighting for … then the argument can only make it better. Friction is what moves us to action and causes us to accept these differences of opinion. We’re two regular guys who enjoy a good fight! Anybody who stands next to us can’t believe what they’re witnessing! You’d think we will never be able to look each other in the eye; but five minutes later we’ll act as if nothing’s happened (laughs).

Claudio Botelho: In the past we would argue almost to the point of coming to blows (laughs). Knowing how to fight is the secret, no doubt about it. If one side is right and the other side is wrong, the end result will demand at lot from us both: we always have to prove we’re right. What makes me the happiest guy in the world is the recognition we get from our work.

Artistic Affinity

Charles Möeller: We met each other as soon as I moved to Rio de Janeiro, in 1989. I was performing in a soap opera called Mico Preto (“Black Monkey”), playing Miguel Falabella’s son, who was then directing the play Um e Outro (“One and the Other”) in which Claudio was part of the cast. I attended an open rehearsal and, as soon as we started talking about musicals, we identified with each other. He was already an expert on the subject and had this goal in mind of an artistic career, while I had just left the company of Antunes Filho and had an aesthetic affinity with the genre. There was a meeting where I provided the stage pictures for a musical and Claudio provided the songs. Duos need to play off one another; those that don’t usually backfire. The neat thing is to be different.

Claudio Botelho: Musical theater is basically a craft made for twos and threes. No single person can go it alone. We only succeed because of one another. When we first met, I realized I had found someone with the same reference points as I had. It was extremely rare for someone my age to have seen the same movies as I had. We had so much love for musicals that, from one day to the next, something clicked. I thought: there’s no way we can do this [type of thing] here [in Brazil] (laughs)! I wanted to show people what I loved the most about musicals; I wanted to share with them what I found so amazing about them. I get excited when I can finally convince the public of this. My greatest pleasure is to sit in the audience and see the place go wild with what we’ve brought to the stage.

Reference to Type

Charles Möeller: We’re obsessed with the genre. It’s not a passing fancy with us, nor are we following the demands of the market. What motivates me to want to do musicals even today is the same motivation I had from the beginning: that the show transforms me and takes me out of myself. We strive for the professionalization of the genre, and lavish it with great technical care. In that way we become a brand.

Claudio Botelho: We changed the type of public that goes to musical theater, which used to be a much older crowd. The generation that watched our show Cole Porter, which really lifted us to success, doesn’t go to the theater anymore. It was Spring Awakening that brought younger audiences to the theater and exposed them to the genre. Our main focus, then, became entertainment for the whole family. We concentrate on the needs of the market, on what the competition has to offer, but without setting aside artistic quality.

All Work, All the Time

Charles Möeller: I have my favorites, but each piece I present takes such a huge chunk out of my life that I always feel the last play I work on is the one that best reflects who I am at the time. I still want to work with so many artists. I love to call on unusual people to partner with, and they end up becoming quite close. My dream is to work with Fernanda Montenegro. I also admire the work of Domingos Montagner and that of Fernanda Torres.

Claudio Botelho: It’s that old cliché of asking which child do you love the most (laughs)? The most important “child” of our career was, curiously enough, the one that made the least money: ‘7.’ It was our creation, one that garnered many awards, but the public wanted to hear more familiar tunes. Still, it was an important benchmark in our history. I, too, dream of working with Fernanda Montenegro and feel this can happen at any moment.

The Future

Coming Attractions: Ewa Wilma & Nicette Bruno in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Coming Attractions: Ewa Wilma & Nicette Bruno in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Charles Möeller: Next year [2016] we’ll present an adaptation of the movie The Apartment, in the musical Promises, Promises with Marcos Veras and Maria Clara Gueiros. In the second half of the year we’ll be bringing Pippin to the stage, with a huge cast of unknown performers!

Claudio Botelho: I’m certain that Pippin will bring the same audience that saw Spring Awakening to the show. In addition, we’ll be releasing the film Os Saltimbancos Trapalhões (“The Bandit Stooges”), and we just bought the rights to the movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, which has been adapted for the theater. We’ll be responsible for the world premiere showing!

By Globo Theatre, December 25, 2015

(Translation by Josmar F. Lopes – Copyright © 2016)

‘Through the Dark of Night’ (‘Pela Escuridão’): The Songs of ‘7 – The Musical’

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Fairy Tales Can Come True

The original cast of 7 - The Musical
The original cast of 7 – The Musical

With the box-office success of the Disney Studios’ film adaptation (directed by Rob Marshall) of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods, it behooves me at this point to revisit an overlooked masterwork of Brazilian musical theater: Möeller-Botelho-Motta’s 7 – The Musical, an adult version (a VERY adult version, I should strongly add) of the Snow White story.

This elaborate excursion into the fairy-tale realm, a dark-themed noir extravaganza that explores the libidinous motivations of its principal protagonists, made its triumphant debut on September 1, 2007, in Rio de Janeiro. And since 2010, when I first heard about the show, I have spent these past several years viewing, studying, and describing the origin and background of this fabulous musical-theater piece in several blog posts (see the following link: https://josmarlopes.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/be-careful-what-you-wish-for-a-brazilian-fairy-tale-musical-comes-to-the-rio-stage/).

Today, however, I want to focus primarily on the English translation of its remarkably cogent songs, some of the catchiest and melodious numbers — be they Brazilian, American or otherwise — of any stage musical in recent memory.

So, without further interference from yours truly, here are the songs of 7 – The Musical, in the order in which they appeared in the original 2007 production:

 

7 – THE MUSICAL

 

Book by CHARLES MÖELLER              

Music by ED MOTTA          

Lyrics by CLAUDIO BOTELHO

English Adaptation by JOSMAR LOPES

 

Musical Numbers 

ACT ONE:

 

  1. “SONG OF THE REQUESTS” (The Seven Young Men)

A PALE WHITE RODENT

SOME POMEGRANATE SEEDS

A TOOTH THAT’S ROTTED

A LADY’S HIGH-HEELED SHOE

A HOLY BIBLE

A WEDDING BAND

 

Amela (Alessandra Maestrini) & Carmen (Zeze Motta)
Amelia (Alessandra Maestrini) & Carmen (Zeze Motta)
  1. “NIGHTTIME” (Carmen, Seven Young Men)

NIGHTTIME

ALL AROUND US IS THE NIGHTTIME

ALL AROUND US IS THE BLACKNESS

ALL AROUND US IS DISTURBANCE

BUT BEHIND US IS THE DRABNESS

 

ALL THE CATS ARE DRAB AND DREARY

ALL THE AIR AROUND IS WEARY

ALL THE ALLEYWAYS ARE TWISTED

CURVING OUT OF SIGHT AND

 

Seven Young Men

IN THE DARK OF NIGHT!

 

Carmen and the Cast

AH… NIGHTTIME

SUDDENLY IT WAS THE NIGHTTIME

SUDDENLY THE SOUND OF SCREAMING

SUDDENLY A BODY FALLING

SUDDENLY IT LEFT A BLOODSTAIN

 

ON THE STREET THERE WAS A BLOODSTAIN

ON THE WALL THERE WAS AN OUTLINE

ON THE COBBLESTONES WERE FOOTSTEPS

AND THE FOOTSTEPS ECHOED

 

THROUGH THE DARK OF NIGHT

 

Carmen and the Cast

NIGHTTIME

WHEN WE LISTEN TO THE CHATTER

WHEN WE HARKEN TO THE CLATTER

OF THE VOWS THAT SEEM TO MATTER

AFTER THAT, WHAT ELSE BUT DAY BREAKS

 

WHEN THE LIGHT OF DAY ADVANCES

WHEN THE RATS GO INTO TRANCES

AND THE PIGS TURN UP THEIR NOSES

WHILE THE DEVIL SLIPS AWAY

 

THROUGH THE DARK OF NIGHT

THROUGH THE DARK OF NIGHT

THROUGH THE DARK OF NIGHT

 

 

  1. “MAGIC MIRROR’S FIRST RESPONSE” (Seven Young Men)

NOT IN THIS KINGDOM

NO, NOT IN ALL THE WORLD

IS THERE A FAIRER MAID THAN YOU

NOT IN THIS KINGDOM

 

 

  1. “MAGIC MIRROR’S SECOND RESPONSE” (Clara)

SO FAIR AND FRAGILE

THAT LOVELY GIRL, SNOW WHITE

SNOW WHITE IS FAR FAIRER THAN YOU

 

 

  1. “THE SEVENTH REQUEST” (Carmen)

BRING ME A HEART THAT’S STRONG

STILL YOUNG AND VIBRANT

HAPPY AND FREE

 

Seven Young Men

HAPPY AND FREE!

 

Amelia (Alessandra Maestrini)
Amelia (Alessandra Maestrini)
  1. “HE’LL BE BACK” (Amelia)

LIKE A RUNAWAY SERVANT

WHO RETURNS TO HIS MASTER

LIKE A DEAR OLD COMPANION

LIKE A WAVE ON THE WATER

FLOWING ONE AFTER ANOTHER

 

HE’LL BE BACK, I VOW

HE’LL COME RUNNING BACK

AS THE SUN AND STARS,

THE MOONLIGHT

WILL COME OUT AS WELL

ALWAYS

 

NO EXCEPTIONS, NONE

NO THOUGHTS OR WORDS, NONE

 

HE’LL BE MINE, I SWEAR

MY LOVER

AS I’VE ALWAYS DREAMED

ALWAYS

I SWEAR

 

YOUR EYES ARE ON MINE, MY LOVE

YOUR ARMS SURROUND MY HEART

THE DOORS ARE NOW CLOSING

CLOSING FAST, MY LOVE, MY HEART

THE ONE I ADORE

 

Odette (Rogeria), Madeleine (Marya Bravo) & Elvira (Gottscha)
Odette (Rogeria), Madeleine (Marya Bravo) & Elvira (Gottscha)
  1. “DANCE AROUND THE DEAD MAN” (Odette, Elvira, Madeleine, Dead Man)

Odette

HE’S DEAD

HE’S GONE

THE DOORS HAVE CLOSED BEHIND

HE’S DOWN

HE’S OUT

HE’LL NEVER COME AROUND

 

HOW LOUD

HOW SOFT

HOW STRONG

HIS WHINE

HIS SHOUT

HIS SONG

 

AND THE FLIES BUZZING HERE

 

HOW KIND

HOW MEAN

HOW HARD WAS HE IN LIFE

A FRIEND

A FOE

A HUSBAND TO HIS WIFE

 

BUT NOW

HE’S OFF

HE’S THROUGH

HE’S FLAT

HE’S BROKE

HE’S STEW

 

AND THE FLIES BUZZING HERE

ALL THOSE THINGS ‘ROUND HIS EARS

WHAT A MEAL FOR THE FLEAS

SUCH A JUICY SIGHT

THOSE BLUE FINGERTIPS

THOSE RED EYES, THOSE LIPS

ARE THEY SAYING: WHAT NOW?

 

Elvira

HE’S DEAD

HE’S DOWN

NO SOCCER GAMES, FOR SURE

HIS TRAIN

LEFT TOWN

BUT NOW HE’S GONE FOR GOOD

 

HE LEFT

HIS DOG TO MOAN

HIS LEGS

ARE STIFF AS BONES

 

HIS POOR KIDS, STRANDED THERE

 

NO MOM

NO POP

TO SAVE HIM IN THE END

NO JOY

NO HOPE

NO SERVICE FOR A FRIEND

 

IT HURTS

TO DIE

ALONE

TO LIE

HERE ON

HIS OWN

 

JUST TO WATCH ALL THOSE WORMS

DO THEIR SAMBAS AND TURNS

THEY DON’T CARE HOW HE CHURNS

WE’RE THE SAME INSIDE

FRUIT IS FRUIT INSIDE

WE ALL ROT INSIDE,

KEEP IT OUT OF SIGHT

IT’S TRUE!

 

Odette

HE’S DEAD

HE’S GONE

THE DOORS HAVE CLOSED BEHIND

 

HE’S DOWN

HE’S OUT

HE’LL NEVER COME AROUND

 

 

HOW LOUD

HOW SOFT

HOW STRONG

HIS WHINE

HIS SHOUT

HIS SONG

 

 

 

 

 

ALL THOSE FLIES

BUZZING HERE!

AH!

Madeleine

ALL RIGHT, ALL RIGHT

I THREW IT UP,

ALL RIGHT?

I REALLY CAN’T GO ON

 

I CAN’T GO ON

WITH THIS

I HAVE TO GO

FOR PITY’S SAKE

SAINT JUDE

AND SAINT JEROME

BY ALL THAT’S RIGHTEOUS IN

THIS WORLD I’M LIVING IN

I REALLY HAVE

TO GO

 

OH MY SAINT GENOVIEVE

AS LONG AS I CAN BREATHE

I KNOW I CAN’T GO ON

 

 

ALL THOSE FLIES

BUZZING HERE!

AH!

Elvira

HE’S DEAD

HE’S GONE

THE DOORS HAVE CLOSED BEHIND

 

HE’S DOWN

HE’S OUT

HE’LL NEVER COME AROUND

 

HOW LOUD

HOW SOFT

HOW STRONG

HIS WHINE

HIS SHOUT

HIS SONG

 

 

 

 

 

ALL THOSE FLIES

BUZZING HERE!

AH!

 

The Dead Man

I’M DEAD

I’M SCREWED

NO ONE LEAVES ME ALONE!

 

NO REST

NO JOY

ANNOYING BITCHES TOO!

 

WHY DON’T

YOU GO

AND SCREW

 

YOUR MOMS

AND POPS

PLUS TWO?

 

CAN YOU SHOW ME THE WAY

TO THE NEAREST CAFÉ

HELL’S A GREAT PLACE TO STAY

 

Dance Around the Dead Man
“Dance Around the Dead Man”
The Dead Man

THAN TO BE HERE

WITH THESE FOOLS

I BET

 

 

 

PURGATORY’S BETTER

THAN THIS

PLACE

 

 

I SWEAR THAT

PURGATORY’S BETTER THAN THIS PLACE,

I SWEAR

 

I CAN’T GO ON!

Madeleine

OH, I CAN’T, I CAN’T

I WON’T GO ON

EVEN HELL IS BETTER

THAN THIS PLACE

 

 

WHAT A CURSE!

OH WHAT A MESS!

PURGATORY’S BETTER THAN THIS

 

I JUST

CAN’T GO ON,

NO MORE, NO MORE

MY GOD

 

I CAN’T GO ON!

Odette & Elvira

THAN TO BE HERE

WITH THESE FOOLS

I BET

 

 

PURGATORY’S BETTER

THAN THIS

PLACE

 

 

I SWEAR THAT

PURGATORY’S BETTER THAN THIS PLACE,

 

I SWEAR

 

I CAN’T GO ON!

 

  1. “THE HUNTER’S PLEA” (Hunter)

FLEE FOR YOUR VERY LIFE

MY POOR YOUNG PRINCESS

FLEE TO THE WOODS

NEVER COME BACK

 

  1. “WHEN A WOMAN WANTS” (Carmen, Rosa, Amelia)

Carmen

WHEN A WOMAN WANTS

A MAN OF HER VERY OWN

SHE BECOMES THE IMAGE OF A SIREN

SHE HOLDS IN HER HAND

AN APPLE FOR HIM TO EAT

A SIMPLE ACT WITH DIRE CONSEQUENCES

 

AND WHEN THE LIGHTS GO DOWN LOW

HE’LL TAKE A BITE AND THEN SHOW

HE IS IN HER ARMS WHEN HE HOLDS ON TO YOUR ROBE

 

AND WHEN YOU EXCHANGE A KISS IN HER PLACE

YOU WILL REMIND HIM WHEN HE LAYS BESIDE YOU

IT’S HER HAND THAT HE IS HOLDING

IT’S HER BACK THAT HE’S BEEN SCRATCHING

EVEN THOUGH YOUR BLOOD IS FLOWING

 

Rosa

TAKE THIS WOMAN FAR

AWAY FROM MY LITTLE GIRL

MAKE HER FIND HER FATE SO FAR FROM HERE

TAKE THIS WOMAN NOW

WITH ALL OF HER CARES AND FEARS

TO A PLACE THAT’S NOT SO VERY NEAR

 

AND MAY SHE FIND HER RELIEF

IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND

ON THE SIDEWALK, IN A SHELTER,

WHERE SHE LAYS DOWN

 

AND WHEN SHE AWAKES, AWAY FROM THIS PLACE,

MAKE HER AWARE OF HER SURROUNDINGS

SO PRINCE CHARMING SEES WHERE SHE’S BEEN SLEEPING

SHE WHO TRIED TO GET INSIDE HIM

MAY HER HAND BE ALL HE’S SEEKING

 

Amelia

FOR ME

 

Carmen

YOU’RE THE ONE WHO PUCKERS

BUT HER LIPS ARE THOSE HE’S KISSING FREELY

 

Amelia

FOR ME

 

Rosa

LET HER FORCE HERSELF ON OTHERS

ON THE STREET OR WHERE SHE’S KNEELING

 

Carmen and Rosa

YOU’RE THE ONE THAT HE IS HOLDING

BUT IT’S HER THAT HE’S BEEN FEELING

 

Amelia

FOR ME!

 

  1. “HERCULANO’S LULLABY” (Herculano)

SLEEP MY LITTLE BABE

YOUR DADDY CAME

 

SLEEP MY LITTLE DOVE

YOUR MOMMY’S GONE

 

Old Stepmother (Ida Gomes) & Clara (Marina Ruy Barbosa)
Old Stepmother (Ida Gomes) & Clara (Marina Ruy Barbosa)
  1. “HEIGH-HO” (Clara, Seven Young Men)

ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE, SIX, SEVEN DWARFS!

HEIGH-HO

HEIGH-HO AND NOW WE’RE GOING HOME

AND NOW WE’RE GOING HOME

 

12.   “CARD DECK” (Amelia, Carmen)

Amelia

THE TOOTH OF A CAT

AND THE TAIL OF A RAT

AND THE WING OF AN OWL

STIR THEM ALL TOGETHER

 

Carmen

TOGETHER!

 

Amelia

THE TOOTH AND THE TAIL

AND THE SHELL OF A SNAIL

WITH A BUCKET AND PAIL

YOU MIX THEM ALL AT ONCE

 

Carmen

ALL AT ONCE!

 

Amelia

BOIL THEM ALL IN A POT

LIKE A SOUP IN A SHOP

IN A KETTLE SO BLACK

THEY’LL BE COMPLETELY MELTED

 

Carmen

MELTED!

 

Amelia

FILL THE TOP OF THE POT

THE MOST POWERFUL POT

YOU CAN FIND IN YOUR SHOP

BRING THEM ALL TO A BOIL

 

Carmen

ALL TO A BOIL!

 

CARD DECK

DEAREST OF CARD DECKS

TAROTS, SHOW ME THE WAY

SEEK, AND YOU SHALL FIND

COME, MAKE ME ALL POWERFUL

 

Amelia

THE TIME OF NO TIME

THE HOUR’S SO FINE

WHEN THE MOON’S GETTING READY TO SHINE

GATHER ‘ROUND THEM CLOSER

 

Carmen

CLOSER!

 

Amelia

THE DAY IS A SAD ONE

A DAY WITHOUT SUN

WE TAKE UP OUR SONG

THEN IT’S OVER AND DONE

 

Carmen

OVER AND DONE!

 

Amelia

THEN YOU WISH FOR A WISH

AND YOUR WISH WILL COME TRUE

IF IT’S ALL THAT YOU DO

A HUNDRED TIMES OVER

 

Carmen

A HUNDRED TIMES OVER!

 

Amelia

YOU VOW AND YOU SWEAR

AND IT ALL COMES YOUR WAY

‘TILL YOU SAY WHAT YOU SAY

A THOUSAND TIMES OR MORE

 

Carmen

A THOUSAND TIMES OR MORE!

 

CARD DECK

OPEN MY EYELIDS

HELP ME, SHOW ME THE WAY

SPEAK, GRANT ME A SIGN

SPEAK, DON’T MAKE ME WAIT ANYMORE

 

Carmen

ASK, AND YOU’LL RECEIVE

 

COMMAND, IT SHALL BE DONE

 

PLEASE, SHOW ME THE WAY

MY ONLY TASK IS TO OBEY!

Amelia

ASK ME, AND I’LL RECEIVE

 

I SWEAR IT SHALL BE DONE

 

SAY IT’S NOT TOO LATE

MY ONLY TASK IS TO OBEY!

 

 

  1. “SCRUB THAT DIRTY STAIR” (Elvira, Madeleine, Amelia)

Elvira, Madeleine

SCRUB THAT DIRTY STAIR

TRA LA LA LA LA

CLEAN IT UP WITH SPIT AND POLISH

PRESS DOWN HARD, NOW TOSS THE RUBBISH

 

WAX THAT FILTHY FLOOR

TRA LA LA LA LA

MAKE IT SHINE AND DO IT SNAPPY

OR ODETTE WON’T BE SO HAPPY

 

WRETCHED WOMAN

USELESS VERMIN

LIFE OF EASE

JUST OUR LUCK

 

Amelia

YOUR FACE IS WITH ME HERE, MY DARLING

MY HEART IS IN YOUR HANDS

EACH PASSING HOUR

IT’S YOU THAT I SEEK

AND STILL I AWAIT,

MY TRUE LOVE

 

Elvira, Madeleine

GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEES

HEE HEE HEE HEE HEE

IT’S JUST SHAMEFUL, SO DISGUSTING

SUCH A LAZY GOOD-FOR-NOTHING

 

LOOK AT ALL THAT WASH

TRA LA LA LA LA

PICK THAT UP, IT’S NEVER-ENDING

HERE’S SOME MORE THAT NEED A MENDING

 

WRETCHED WOMAN

USELESS VERMIN

LIFE OF EASE

JUST OUR LUCK

 

Madeleine

HEAVY WOMAN

 

Elvira

BEAST OF BURDEN

 

Both

LIFE OF EASE

JUST OUR LUCK!!!

 

7 Curses, 7 Wishes
“7 Curses, 7 Wishes”
  1. “SEVEN CURSES” (Madeleine, Elvira, Carmen, Bianca, Seven Young Men)

BITE A PLUM PIT

CHEW A FISHBONE

FILL THOSE VEINS UP NOW

SPITTEL CHOKING

SPIRITS POKING

DRINK THAT POTION NOW

 

MALEDICTION

MALEFACTION

SUPERSTITION NOW

SPELL ALL-BINDING

STUPEFYING

BLINDLY CURSING SOW

 

TOXIC FOAM

ROUNDABOUT

OVERLOAD

CRY AND SHOUT

 

WRINKLES SPREADING

DISRESPECTING

EARTH IS QUAKING

SKIN IS SHEDDING

 

MILK TURNS SOUR

NOW’S THE HOUR

SPILL THAT BUTTER

DYING MOTHER

 

STIR THE CAULDRON

HEAT THE OVEN

HANDS IN FIRE NOW

IN THE GARDEN

BEASTS OF BURDEN

IN THE CUPBOARD NOW

 

MOLDY STORAGE

TRY THAT PORRIDGE

PLUCK A PULLET NOW

IN YOUR BEDROOM

ALL IS BEDLAM

WASH THOSE EYEBALLS,

WHERE AND HOW?

 

TRIM YOUR BODY

CUT TO RIBBONS

FEED YOUR PONY

APES AND GIBBONS

 

BORE A HOLE IN

ROOF AND CEILING

MAKE A HOME FOR

LICE AND WOMEN

 

SWEAR A CURSE AND

KILL YOUR FATHER

SHOW THE WEAPON

THEN AIM HIGHER

 

SEVEN CURSES

SEVEN WISHES

TAKE THEM BACK

THEN DO THE DISHES

 

 

  1. “THE LIGHT OF DAY” (Carmen)

THE LIGHT OF DAY

IS THERE, WAITING FOR YOU

THE MORNING GLOW,

THE SIDEWALK’S JUST FOR YOU

 

AND THERE’S

A SEA OUT THERE

WITH SEASHELLS

AND SAND OUT THERE

 

ALL OF RIO AWARE

A RED CARPET TO SHARE

CITY LIFE AT YOUR FEET

WAITING, HOPING THERE

AT YOUR BECK AND CALL

AT YOUR FEET!

 

Herculano (Jarbas Homem de Mello) & Bianca (Alessandra Verney)
Herculano (Jarbas Homem de Mello) & Bianca (Alessandra Verney)

 

  1. “IF THIS PATHWAY” (Bianca, Herculano)

Bianca

IF THIS PATHWAY

COULD UNLOCK MY HEART

I WOULD PAVE IT

WITH THE GEMS FROM MY PART

STONES, MOST PRECIOUS STONES THAT I HAVE LAID

FOR MY ESCAPE

 

Bianca

FROM THE SILENCE

WHERE HE LOCKED ME IN

FROM THE FENCES

WHERE HE KEPT ME BOUND

FROM THE DOORWAY

WHERE HE FORCED ME DOWN

EVERY DAY AND NIGHT

 

THIS IS MY HELLHOLE

 

THIS IS MY PENANCE

 

I WANT MORE

I NEED SO MUCH MORE…

 

IT’S SO COLD INSIDE ME

 

SO EMPTY INSIDE ME

 

A TIGER INSIDE ME

 

AND NOW I MUST LEAVE YOU

FOR US

FOR US

 

IF THIS PATHWAY

COULD UNLOCK MY HEART

I WOULD PAVE IT

WITH THE GEMS FROM MY PART

STONES, MOST PRECIOUS STONES

THAT I HAVE LAID

FOR MY ESCAPE

 

THERE ANCHORS MY VESSEL

 

THERE LIES A NEW FUTURE

 

I WANT MORE

I NEED MORE

OH, SO MUCH MORE

 

OUTSIDE A SWEET WINTER

 

OUTSIDE ENDLESS SUMMERS

 

A SUNSHINE INSIDE ME

 

AND NOW, I MUST LEAVE YOU

FOR US

FOR US

 

PATHWAY

PLEASE UNLOCK MY HEART

 

IF THIS PATHWAY…

Herculano

ALL I HAVE IS YOURS

MY LOVE

MY LOVE

 

 

 

 

 

THIS IS OUR LOVENEST

 

THIS IS OUR DREAM HOUSE

 

STAY WITH ME HERE

WHERE IT’S OH, SO WARM

 

IT’S SO COLD OUTSIDE ME

 

SO UGLY OUTSIDE ME

 

A WOLF AT THE WINDOW

 

DO IT FOR ME

FOR US

FOR US

 

SAVE OUR LOVE TONIGHT

MY LOVE

MY LOVE

 

 

 

 

 

FAR FROM ANY STORM CLOUD

 

SAVE OUR LOVE TONIGHT

 

OUR LOVE

IS ALL

WE NEED

 

OUTSIDE THERE ARE OGRES

 

OUTSIDE STRIFE ETERNAL

 

OUTSIDE AN INFERNO

 

DO IT FOR ME

FOR US

FOR US

 

PATHWAY

DON’T TEAR OUR LOVE APART

 

IF THIS PATHWAY…

 

 

  1. “BEFORE I FORGET” (Amelia, Alvaro)

Amelia

BEFORE I FORGET MYSELF IN YOU, STAY

BEFORE I REMEMBER WHAT I DO, STAY

COME, STAY WITH ME HERE

DON’T LEAVE ME, I FEAR

 

BEFORE MY TEMPTATION TO SAY YES, STAY

BEFORE CONTEMPLATION TELLS ME LESS, STAY

STAY, I’VE BEEN AWAY

DON’T LEAD ME ASTRAY

 

STAY, TIME GOES BY FASTEST WHEN WE SAY:

STAY!

 

Alvaro

CLOCKS WITH ALL THEIR HANDS WILL STOP AND SAY: STAY

SHINGLES ON THE CEILING FALL AND SAY: STAY

SAY I FOUND YOU HERE

PRAY, NO ONE COMES NEAR

ALL THAT IS FORGOTTEN’S IN THE PAST

STAY

 

Both

FOREVER,

AND ALWAYS

TOGETHER,

STAY WITH ME

 

Amelia

STAY, MY NIGHTS ARE FADING OH SO FAST, STAY

 

Both

STAY, THE DOORS ARE CLOSING TO THE PAST, STAY

 

STAY, BEFORE THE SPRING

STAY, BEFORE THE THAW

BEFORE WE FORGET HOW MUCH WE SAY:

STAY

 

FOREVER

AND ALWAYS

 

Alvaro

LONGING

 

Amelia

SWEAR IT

 

Both

STAY!

 

Full Cast in Finale to Act 1
Full Cast in the Finale to Act One
  1. FINALE: “TIME AND AGAIN” (Entire Cast)

Madeleine, Elvira, Seven Young Men

TIME AND AGAIN

NIGHTTIME HAS COME

 

Seven Young Men

THE PATHWAY, PATHWAY, PATHWAY, PATHWAY

 

Madeleine

STAY WITH ME!

 

Elvira

HEY THERE!

WHAT’S IT TODAY?

 

Madeleine

WHO WILL CARESS ME?

 

Madeleine, Elvira, Seven Young Men

TIME AND AGAIN

WE’RE ALL THE SAME

 

Seven Young Men

THE STAIRWAY, STAIRWAY, STAIRWAY, STAIRWAY

 

Madeleine

STAY WITH ME, OH STAY

 

Elvira

MAKE OF ME

YOUR HEART’S DESIRE OR SOMETHING MORE

 

Madeleine

WITH ME THE LIGHTS ARE BURNING BRIGHTER

 

Elvira

WITH ME THE FLAMES STAY LOW

 

Both

NEAR TO YOUR CHAMBER

A CUP ON THE FLOOR

AND STILL I AWAIT

 

All

MY TRUE LOVE

 

Seven Young Men

TIME AND AGAIN

NIGHTTIME HAS COME

 

Bianca

THE PATHWAY, PATHWAY, PATHWAY, PATHWAY…

 

Madeleine

STAY WITH ME!

 

Elvira

ANYONE

OR NO ONE

 

Madeleine

WHO WILL CARESS ME?

 

Seven Young Men

TIME AND AGAIN

WE’RE ALL THE SAME

THE STAIRWAY, STAIRWAY, STAIRWAY, STAIRWAY…

 

Madeleine

STAY WITH ME, OH STAY

 

Elvira

MAKE OF ME

YOUR CRUEL HEAVEN OR YOUR HELL!

 

Elvira, Madeleine, Seven Young Men

AT NIGHT MY PRINCE IS WAITING FOR ME

HIS FATE IS IN MY HANDS

 

Carmen, Odette, Rosa

INSIDE OUR SOULS WHERE

IT’S WARM AND IT’S COLD

 

All

AND STILL I AWAIT

MY TRUE LOVE

 

BLACKOUT

Curtain

End of Act One

 

(To be continued…) 

Copyright © 2015 by Josmar F. Lopes

 

‘7’ the Winner! The Brazilian Musical Comes of Age — Part Four: The Beginning or the End?

Posted on Updated on

THE CONCLUSION TO MY ANALYSIS OF MÖELLER & BOTELHO’S 7 – THE MUSICAL, ONE OF THE FINEST MUSICAL-THEATER PIECES EVER TO HIT THE BRAZILIAN STAGE

"The Heart in the Forest" with Clara (Marina Ruy Barbosa) (Photo: Paulo Ruy Barbosa)
“The Heart in the Forest” with Clara (Marina Ruy Barbosa) (Photo: Paulo Ruy Barbosa)

In this final chapter of my multi-part study of Charles Möeller, Claudio Botelho, and Ed Motta’s masterwork 7 – The Musical, wherein we left readers with an in-depth analysis and appreciation of Act I (see the following link: https://josmarlopes.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/7-the-winner-the-brazilian-musical-comes-of-age-part-two-ele-vai-voltar-hell-come-back-i-vow/), we conclude with the major occurrences of Act II (Reader Alert: Spoilers ahead!).

Prologue on the Ice: “The Heart in the Forest”

The prelude is taken (quite appropriately, one might add) from the “Seven Curses” ensemble in Act I. After a brief exchange between Madeleine and Elvira atop a balcony, the curtain rises on an ice-covered lake. Just below the surface is the frozen body of a young woman, Bianca, who was last seen wandering the streets in search of safe haven from the storm. The premise is that she must have fallen into the lake by accident (a possible stand-in for Rio’s Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas).

The seven young men (or dwarfs) assume the roles of motorized musicians, the type once found at amusement parks. In this instance, the dwarfs are providing a musical diversion for the ad hoc skating rink. Each of the men is playing a different instrument (piano, trombone, maracas, accordion, etc.) in robotic fashion. Clara is frolicking behind them, tossing her dolls into the air and giggling uncontrollably like a child.

The scene opens with an impressive number, “The Heart in the Forest,” which recounts some peculiar plot points:

Eis o coração no bosque
Eis mais um príncipe
Mais uma abóbora
Quantas doze badaladas
Quantas sete luas

There’s a wounded heart in the forest
There’s your Prince Charming
A pumpkin, a coachman
A clock will strike at twelve
A calendar that reads of seven

The next stanza is directed at Clara’s rescue from the “castle” that Old Stepmother has allegedly imprisoned her in (another nod to the Rapunzel story):

Eis o caçador
Eis o alazão
Quem invade o teu castelo?
E vem te enfeitiçar com beijos
Rubros
Loucos?

Hunter with a horn
Rider on his horse
Who will then invade my bastion?
And when will he enchant me with feeling,
Ardor,
Passion?

These are but the musings of a prepubescent girl about to reach maturity, who still dreams of a knight in shining armor to sweep her off her feet and carry her away on his mount. A mysterious voice — that of the frozen Bianca, whose head protrudes from a hole in the ice — interrupts the goings-on by emitting a few coloratura scales in melodious counterpoint to Clara and the dwarfs.

“Mop That Dirty Floor”

The scene shifts to Old Stepmother’s house. She’s barely concluded a portion of the Snow White story, when Clara asks a question of her: “Do you love me?” Old Stepmother conveniently sidesteps the issue, but Clara insists that deep down inside, “You love me as if I were your own daughter!” To this the cantankerous old woman snaps back that she is Clara’s stepmother and, as such, demands that she be respected. She sends the girl off to make her bed and takes her leave.

"Mop that Dirty Floor" - Clara (Marina Ruy Barbosa) (Photo: Paulo Ruy Barbosa)
“Mop that Dirty Floor” – Clara (Marina Ruy Barbosa) (Photo: Paulo Ruy Barbosa)

Scrubbing the floor in as resentful a manner as she can manage, Clara expresses her annoyance by repeating the old lady’s instructions in sing-song fashion (“Mop that dirty floor, tra-la-la-la-la…”) to the same melody that Elvira and Madeleine used on Amelia in a comparable situation at the brothel. Overhearing Clara’s mocking tone, stepmother orders her to keep silent. Clara hurriedly exists from the room. Old Stepmother repeats to herself the words she has just hurled at Clara: “You don’t know who I am. You don’t know who you are…”

“A Little Babe Came Knocking”

At that, there is a flashback to 20 years prior, when Dona Rosa, Amelia’s “godmother,” recalls how she came to be in possession of baby Amelia (Note: an extended scene that was cut from the original text included Dona Carmen and Dona Odette as well). “It was a dark and terrible night of rain,” when Rosa heard a knock at the door. A man dropped off a baby girl whose name was Amelia; the man turned out to be her father. We are told that Dona Rosa embraced Amelia as her own child, an abandoned orphan with no past and very little future. Now we know who Amelia is, but who is Clara?

“Oh, Look at Me”

Returning to room number 7, where Amelia has been “entertaining” her client Alvaro, we hear the “Song of the Wishes” as intoned by the young men, along with Carmen’s admonition to Amelia to bring her “a heart that’s strong, still young and vibrant, happy and free” — only this time it’s sung by Alvaro, the young man whose strong heart now beats for Amelia, and that Amelia so desperately needs in order to complete her task.

Repeating the same motion with the knife that tore open the Belt Strangler’s chest in the early going, the enamored Amelia cannot bring herself to kill the fetching lad. Her reasoning: “He loves me, the boy loves me!” The clairvoyant reminds her that she’s not herself, that both she and the boy have been bewitched by the magic spell. Again, we see the past intruding upon the present, as the couple finds itself trapped in a time warp, unable to break free. Amelia and Alvaro make plans to run away together. They will meet at the train station at midnight.

Carmen warns Amelia that if she fails to comply with the seventh task, she will face a terrible curse. Amelia looks at her in disbelief: “What curse?” Carmen obliges with a riposte: “The seven years curse. Whoever fails to complete the spell will live seven years in one.” “How’s that?” Amelia inquires. “You are going to get seven years older with each passing year,” Carmen admonishes. “The circle must be closed.” She holds up a hand mirror to Amelia’s face. But instead of reacting with alarm, Amelia can only gaze at her pale features. She stares blankly into the mirror, transfixed by what she sees (the fairy-tale phrase, “Who in the land is fairest of them all?” comes to mind).

"Oh, Look at Me" (Alessandra Maestrini)
“Oh, Look at Me” (Alessandra Maestrini)

Amelia now begins her song, “Olhe pra mim” (“Oh, Look at Me”), the most insightful and psychologically potent number of all. The young men surround Amelia while they hold hand mirrors up to her face. But what does Amelia see? Speculating on the possibilities, perhaps she can peer inside herself — inside her soul, that is —and outside, at her fading beauty.

In fairy tales, mirrors can represent windows to the soul. Here, Amelia’s soul is reflected back at her as a form of punishment for the evil she has done — and still intends to do. Beauty is only skin deep, so the saying goes, and the face that turns men “on” can also turn them “off,” a cruel lesson for any woman to learn:

Diz que me viu
Como eu era
Meus azuis
Os verdes meus
Meu mar, meu mar

What do you see?
My life as it was then
My true self
My dark side as well
My calm, my calm

In the concluding moments of her song, the words “Que as portas já vão fechar, fechar” – “And the doors will be closing soon, so soon” ring out loud and clear. It’s the darkest of sentiments, a remarkable display of chromaticism at work (note the presence of piano and vibraphone), along with the sophisticated use of melody and harmonics — a marvelously atmospheric piece!

Intermezzo

We segue directly to the most sensuous, indeed the most dreamlike passage in the entire musical: the scene of Clara, slowly and deliberately, descending the steps to Old Stepmother’s house. She is wearing a revealing, low-cut gown that had once belonged to her mother. For the first time the girl is in touch with her own sexuality. We marvel at the radiance of her hair which is straight and combed for the occasion, the contours of her form, the loveliness of her skin and face — in sum, she’s an exquisite flower of the night that has come into bloom.

First the violin, then the cello, play a sumptuous solo passage based on the opening section of “There’s a wounded heart in the forest,” but the pace is languorous, the atmosphere sexually charged, the entire episode appearing to take place in Clara’s mind. This sequence is in sharp contrast to the number that opened the act, where Clara, in the last throes of her childhood, is found still playing with her dolls, laughing and carrying on over the frozen lake — the lake that encases Bianca’s frozen body.

Clara (Marina Ruy Barbosa) descending the stairs
Clara (Marina Ruy Barbosa) descending the stairs

Old Stepmother chastises her for wearing her mother’s gown and tells her that “mommy” was a worthless tramp, that Clara is “ugly, very, very ugly.” Our eyes, however, tell a different story. We see an ugly duckling transformed into a gorgeous swan. Clara sways her arms in time to the music as she glides down the staircase, in delicately choreographed movements that provide ample proof of her swan-like transformation. The audience, too, becomes aware of the moment, i.e., of her entry into womanhood — just as Bianca before her had experienced with the pricking of her finger.

Toying with the girl (probably to get back at her for her prior misbehavior), Old Stepmother observes that “Mirrors are a woman’s worst enemy,” which only leads to Clara repeating the hackneyed phrase, “Magic mirror on the wall / who in the land is fairest of them all?”

After telling her again to keep her mouth shut, Old Stepmother rudely berates her. The poor heart-broken girl bursts into tears and runs off to her room. Right on cue, the seven young men repeat the opening stanza of “There’s a wounded heart in the forest.” We know now whose heart has been wounded, among so many unfortunates: “There’s your Prince Charming, a pumpkin, a coachman / A clock will strike at twelve / a calendar that reads of seven.” It’s the plot of the musical itself, brilliantly encapsulated in verse and song.

“Mommy’s on Her Way”

We are back at Dona Odette’s house of ill repute. Amelia is preparing to leave. Not wanting to lose such a valuable “employee,” Odette invites her to stay in room number 7 for as long as she wants. But Amelia reveals that she is taking the midnight train back to her home.

Odette dismisses the two whores (who realize they must do all the housework themselves) and contacts Carmen by phone to apprise her of the situation: Amelia is on her way at last. Their plan worked! The two women “go back a long way together” as Carmen once hinted. They have worked out the details of their scheme to perfection and, if we are perceptive enough to notice, have succeeded in sparing themselves the curse’s wrath by luring Amelia to the appointed spot before the clock strikes twelve.

We see Herculano through a window of the house he shares with Bianca. He hums a lullaby to the child, the melody of which belongs, ironically enough, to Elvira and Madeleine’s number, which was taken up by Clara. He is interrupted by a phone call telling him that Bianca’s body has been found on the beach. Next, we find Bianca lying on a bier — in juxtaposition to the episode in the Prologue to Act I, where Clara was seen lying on a bench underneath the huge clock while holding a lily in her hands. Bianca, too, is holding a lily, only she is unconscious. The seven young men are there, surrounding and protecting her much as the seven dwarfs would do.

Old Stepmother (Ida Gomes) and Clara (Marina Ruy Barbosa) (Photo: Paulo Ruy Barbosa)
Old Stepmother (Ida Gomes) and Clara (Marina Ruy Barbosa) (Photo: Paulo Ruy Barbosa)

Shifting rapidly to the next scene, Clara and Old Stepmother argue whether Prince Charming had arrived in time to rouse Snow White from her poisoned slumber. Old Stepmother complains that Clara always interrupts her at this point. Clara counters that Old Stepmother hates it when Snow White gets kissed and awakens to live happily ever after. “Your mother died, my dear,” the stepmother proclaims coldly. “There was no prince to wake her. She died while drowning.” The contrast between Snow White and Clara’s mother is purposely done in order to create a play on words as well as inject a little levity.

In another scene change Alvaro enters and is captivated by Bianca’s frozen form. He impulsively kisses her on the lips. This startles the other men as well as the two prostitutes peering over the balcony. Unexpectedly, Bianca sits up with a start — the dead have come back to life again, raising the “specter,” if you will, of whether any of them were dead to begin with, or merely feigning death. This issue of permanence (or the lack thereof) is the insoluble dilemma of the play: is there such a thing as the separation of reality from fantasy?

Another brief scene features Amelia speaking to Dona Rosa on the phone, telling her that all is well and that she should prepare two places for breakfast in the morning. “From now on, I’m going to be happy… very happy!” she announces gaily.

As Bianca and Alvaro walk off in the distance, the seven young men sing Amelia and Alvaro’s love song, the cabaret number with its eerie allusions to clocks and to the past:

Clocks with all their hands
Will stop and say: stay
Shingles on the ceiling fall and say: stay
Say I found you here
Pray, no one comes near
All that’s been forgotten’s in the past,
Stay

Pick a Card

In imitation of the conclusion to Act I (and with the same hurried theme music), Herculano rushes in, desperately seeking Bianca. But her bier is empty and Bianca is nowhere to be found. Herculano asks the passersby if they’ve seen his wife and rudely barks orders at them, all the while holding the infant in his arms. Carmen materializes and instructs him to pick a card. Dubious at first, Herculano obeys her command.

Dona Carmen (Zeze Motta) Photo: Renata Jurban / AE
Dona Carmen (Zeze Motta) (Photo: Renata Jurban / AE)

Drawing a card from the deck, he hands it to Carmen, who sends him scurrying off to the train station to meet his wife. However, she neglects to mention that Amelia, his first wife, will be the one waiting for him, not his precious Bianca. Semantics and the deliberate misrepresentation of words and their meaning is the staple of many stories, including the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, a fable about individual identity and the power of names over persons or situations.

Looking at the card that Herculano has just picked, Carmen provides the audience with a characteristic fare-thee-well: “I’ll bring your love back in seven days! Seven days!” And with that she vanishes.

“Like the Day of a Wedding”

Bianca and Alvaro are standing on the beach. She has longed to see the ocean. The orchestra plays the “If this pathway” theme, as she and Alvaro form a close bond. Has she finally found her pathway? That remains to be seen. They hold each other’s hand. Alvaro asks to stay with her. Bianca has lost all memory of her past. All she knows is that she loves Alvaro. Alvaro, in kind, has also forgotten the past, especially the reason for his going to the train station: to rendezvous with Amelia.

“All that’s been forgotten is in the past,” the last line of Alvaro and Amelia’s love song, gives us a clue as to where Bianca and Alvaro’s relationship may be going. Sealing their passion with a kiss, Bianca fails to notice that it was in this exact same manner that she bid goodbye to Herculano before she ran away from home.

We are both at the beach and at the train station. There’s a duet between Amelia and Bianca. The music of “He’ll Come Back” returns but with new words: “He’ll arrive on time.” Once more, there is a musical theme in search of a melody that mocks Amelia’s search for her lost love. The two female voices join together, albeit temporarily, the one unbeknown to the other. They are on opposite ends of the stage, the physical separation indicative of how far apart they are in temperament.

Their brief duet is a fascinating blend of the characters’ differing states of mind, each with her own view of where fate will lead them. Neither is aware of how much they have changed since the start of the drama, nor will they ever know. Bianca departs with Alvaro in tow, leaving Amelia alone, to wait for Alvaro at the train station.

Finale: “My Heart on Your Heart”

The music reverts to the “He’ll Come Back, I Vow” theme. As we have seen, the sequence of events is recurring in reverse order from those at the start of the play. All the musical numbers will follow this reverse course. We are going backward in time, edging ever closer to the end… or are we?

Amelia counts off the numbers in sequence: one, two, three, four, five, six — each one voiced more desperately than the preceding one — until Herculano arrives on the scene with the baby still in his arms. Sheepishly, they turn away from each other as they talk. Their conversation is broken up into short spurts — it’s stilted and formal, not what you’d expect from husband and wife. Amelia sees him with the child and inquires, “Is this your daughter?” “Yes, she is,” he replies. “Her name is Clara.” “She looks just like you,” Amelia comments. Clearly, Herculano did not wish to meet Amelia there, although Carmen did say he could find his “wife” at the station.

Amelia (Alessandra Maestrini) & Herculano (Jarbas Homem de Mello)
Amelia (Alessandra Maestrini) & Herculano (Jarbas Homem de Mello)

Noticeably uncomfortable with this forced arrangement, Herculano excuses himself by claiming he needs to get cigarettes — the same excuse he offered at the start that led to his leaving Amelia. Baby Clara is now in Amelia’s arms. Not knowing what else to do, she sings a soothing lullaby to keep the girl quiet:

Meu peito no seu
Meu colo, meu calor, meu sal
A lua que vai
Voltar enfim ao meu quintal
Meu pródigo amor!

My heart on your heart
My kindness, my passion, my all
The moon in the sky
Will rise again tonight, my heart
The one adore!

For the last time, the huge clock is lowered onto the stage in exactly the same manner as at the beginning. A train whistle is heard in the distance, sounding closer and closer to the station. Resolutely speaking the words, “Está na minha hora” (“It’s time for me to go”) Amelia takes the baby and suitcase and disappears behind the clock.

From the opposite side of the clock, Old Stepmother emerges with Clara. She sings the same lullaby that Amelia just sang to the baby. Clara lays her head on her stepmother’s lap. It’s obvious the two most important women of the story, Amelia and Old Stepmother, are one and the same person, that the girl Clara is the product of the union between Bianca (Snow White) and Herculano (Prince Charming), and that she was abandoned — as Amelia was — by her mother.

Taking up where she left off, Old Stepmother begins to tell the story of Snow White anew: “Once upon a time,” she commences. Tired of the routine, Clara interrupts Old Stepmother to ask why is it they have to go to the station every week. To which Old Stepmother responds: “I’m waiting for someone.” “But we’ve been coming here for years,” Clara complains, “but so far…” Old Stepmother cuts her off with a phrase she’s been muttering every day of her life: “There were seven tasks and I fulfilled them all… except for the seventh one… Now, what was that task again?” She looks at Clara for a moment and, absentmindedly waving the thought from her mind, declares simply, “I forget.”

Old Stepmother (Ida Gomes) & Clara (Tatih Koehler)
Old Stepmother (Ida Gomes) & Clara (Tatih Koehler)

“That’s because you’ve grown old,” Clara concludes. Perking up, she poses a rather curious question to the old woman: “Will I live happily ever after?” Looking forlornly at the girl, Old Stepmother shakes her head and replies, but not in a cruel way: “No, my darling.” She then resumes the Snow White story. But instead of Old Stepmother reciting, we hear Amelia picking up the thread as she voices the oft-spoken line: “Magic mirror on the wall / who in the land is fairest of them all?”

At the same time, the music changes to a cello solo and the theme of “If this pathway,” as a young man with a suitcase comes striding in. It is Alvaro — Clara’s knight in shining armor — several years older yet none the wiser. What’s happened to Bianca? We may never know. He is wearing an overcoat to protect him from the elements (the elements of shock and surprise, no doubt) as he glimpses the couple seated together.

Old Stepmother recognizes the young man. “Alvaro!” she gasps in astonishment. Immediately, she rises from the bench and rearranges her hair in a provocative manner. Alvaro moves closer to the pair. Old Stepmother smiles expectantly, but he passes right by her, as if she were never there, a shadow of her former self. He sits on the bench in her place and looks deeply into Clara’s eyes. It’s love at first sight!

Amelia chooses that exact moment to come out from behind the clock. As she does so, we hear the same pulse-pounding notes that began the musical, Amelia’s “He’ll Come Back” motif. And, indeed, he has come back, hasn’t he? But not in the way she had hoped.

The two women face each other for the first and only time — the young Amelia and her older embodiment — while Clara and Alvaro sit alone on the bench, gazing longingly at one another. Finally breaking the silence, Amelia and Old Stepmother speak the words that by all rights should bring the story to its end: “Aqui começa o teu sortilégio!” (“Here begins your magic spell!)”

But the curse continues. The circle refuses to close… And the story never, ever ends…

BLACKOUT

Curtain

                                                             *             *              *

According to Spanish philosopher George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Not only is this the real cause of Amelia’s sorrow, but the central plight of all the characters in 7 – The Musical.

They have been duped by their own mad obsessions into forgetting the past. Recalling only their present predicaments, Amelia, Carmen, Bianca, Rosa, Odette, Clara, Herculano, and the rest are forced, one by one, to re-experience their transgressions: to wallow in self-pity over such monstrous indulgences as adultery, murder, prostitution, deceit, abandonment, infidelity, black magic, and other debaucheries.

Relief from this vicious cycle is not to be had: their fate has been sealed, the portal remains closed — predetermined from the outset by Carmen’s powerful spell. They are all condemned to endlessly repeat their mistakes — complicit bystanders in a living hell of their own making, existentialism taken to the ultimate extreme. A revisionist No Exit perhaps? Absolutely!

Musical director Claudio Botelho once told me that “7” is very much like Sondheim’s Passion, in that it’s “a story about love and loss, about being left by the one you love, about losing your mind for someone else,” until you spend every waking hour in a fruitless search for that which you have lost. It’s a grown-up tale with a grown-up vision and viewpoint — the very model of a modern major musical.

The Brazilian musical has indeed reached its maturity. And, like the memorable characters of Bianca and Clara, it has come of age at last: long may it thrive.

If I were a gambling man, I’d be willing to wager that in a game of chance “7” would come up the winner every time. You can bet on it! ☼

(With gratitude and acknowledgement to Charles Möeller, Claudio Botelho, Ed Motta and Tania Carvalho)

English lyrics by Josmar F. Lopes – Copyright © 2014 All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2014 by Josmar F. Lopes

 

‘7’ the Winner! The Brazilian Musical Comes of Age — Part Three: The Critics Agree!

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REVIEWS OF MÖELLER & BOTELHO’S 7 – THE MUSICAL, ONE OF THE FINEST MUSICAL-THEATER PIECES EVER TO HIT THE BRAZILIAN STAGE

"Seven Curses" from 7 - The Musical
“Seven Curses” from 7 – The Musical

Intermission Feature

    “With their considerable knowledge brought to the area of musical theater, the team of Charles Möeller and Claudio Botelho has, for the first time, forged a path toward that of the musical as stage spectacular with 7 – The Musical. This new work— with a book by Möeller, lyrics by Botelho and music by Ed Motta — follows the example set by Stephen Sondheim, with a play that is more erudite and adult than traditional popular American musicals have been…

    “As always, Claudio’s lyrics, sung as well as they are, sound so impeccably right for the dramatic situation at hand… Charles’ direction strongly guides the large cast along, favoring behavior according to character type, as dictated by the text, and is especially efficient when dealing with massed ensembles.”

Barbara Heliodora, O Globo

    “With the premiere of 7 – The Musical, Brazilian musical theater has reached full maturity. Its parents – Charles Möeller and Claudio Botelho – have been carefully nurturing it, with affinity and gratitude… but with the launch of their 15th joint venture, [they have] presented to the public their most ambitious project yet, one that is 100 percent by their own hands. If before the team had bent itself backwards [to do justice to] the grand masters of musical theater, this time it has started from scratch: the elegant songs of ‘7’, a good portion of which are semi-operatic in tone, were written by Ed Motta specifically for this staging. This is musical theater in its natural state, with songs that serve the narrative to perfection – the lyrics by Botelho, musical director of the show, side by side with Motta’s music, are both touching and thrilling, but are there to advance the plot…

    “From the looks of it, the tale that’s being told reveals the ease with which Möeller, the author and director of the text, has in uniting subject matter with lightness of touch. The excellent cast assembled for this production sings about the absence of love, and the fate that drives them to the play’s ultimate realization: that moving forward is better than looking backward. Rogerio Falcão’s lovely but somber sets cause an immediate impact in their recreation of first a forest, then several balconies, along with allusions to the familiar landscape of the Lapa Arches.”

– André Gomes, O Dia Newspaper

Alessandra Verney (Bianca) & Raul Veiga (Herculano) abroadwayeaqui.com.br
Alessandra Verney (Bianca) & Raul Veiga (Herculano) http://www.abroadwayeaqui.com.br

“The show argues the case for what a Brazilian musical can be. The production… reveals its national identity by means of elements found in the universality of its themes. Inspired by confabulated tales of witches and witchcraft, in traditional narrative recollections, they are transferred to a Rio of the imagination where snowflakes begin to fall. The characters relive the archetypes previously conferred on them by the Brothers Grimm, singing as if they had stepped out of a Sondheim musical. There’s nothing more Brazilian, by the spirit of playfulness present throughout – with the needless necessity of labeling itself ‘native’ in origin – than to prove that an Anglo-Saxon matrix can receive a treatment that celebrates, by sheer force, this very identity.

“Ed Motta’s music, with inventive and dazzling lyrics by Claudio Botelho, boasts a refinement and rhythmic variance that adjusts itself to the evolution of the dramatic context. With complex but no less melodious harmonies, Motta’s score is attractive to the point that, upon leaving the theater, one wants to hear it all over again from the start. The musical direction, the arrangements, the conducting and musicianship establish a sonorous quality that gives full weight to the beauty of this score… Director Charles Möeller, in his most ambitious assignment yet, orchestrates each individual detail, creating compositions and frames of great beauty, and leading the surprisingly competent cast with sureness and ease.”

Macksen Luiz, Jornal do Brasil

“It’s difficult to associate Ed Motta who debuted in the record market in 1988… with his theatrical debut as the sophisticated composer of 7 – The Musical. Ed wrote the score (the lyrics are by Claudio Botelho) and provided the musical direction (together with Botelho) of the team comprised of Möeller & Botelho on their 15th joint production. The melodic refinement is in complete harmony with Ed’s recent repertory of works.

“What is surprising – and most reassuring – is the composer’s ability to place his music at the disposal of the theater. Ed wouldn’t fare too badly on Broadway, with such numbers as ‘Dance Around the Dead Man,’ ‘My Friends the Cards,’ ‘Oh, Look at Me,’ ‘If This Pathway’ (with echoes from the children’s song ‘If This Street Were Mine’) and ‘My Heart on Your Heart.’ Motta’s music has a sullen and somber quality that manages to provide the dark tone called for in Möeller’s script, [which is] made up of references to the stories of the Brothers Grimm, along with various allusions to witchcraft.”

Mauro Ferreira (The Blog Notas Musicais – “Musical Notes”)

Rogeria (Odette), Marya Bravo (Madeleine) & Gottscha (Elvira)
Rogeria (Odette), Marya Bravo (Madeleine) & Gottscha (Elvira)

“The use of the Gothic tale of Snow White… in parallel with, or as a basis for, the intriguing book by author Charles Möeller, resulted in the unusually notorious universe of Nelson Rodrigues, our best-known transgressor of dramaturgy, with all that we’ve grown accustomed to in his works, from its mythical aspects to the suburban phase [of development]: a woman scorned and ill-resigned to her fate; a wandering and womanizing husband (nothing less than a certain Herculano!); as well as whores, prostitutes, and conniving clairvoyants. It’s a veritable bubbling cauldron of melodramatic ingredients: hate, jealousy, revenge, knives literally ripping apart impetuous hearts…

“The tone is of a tragicomedy, a grandiloquent and solemn one at that, with tidbits of comic relief and humor of a typically carioca nature…The musical direction and reduced orchestrations are worthy of Ed Motta’s original score, as are Claudio Botelho’s lyrics, unbeatable as usual in this context.”

Afonso Gentil (Theater Critic associated with APCA)

Creative Team:

Book and Direction: Charles Möeller
Music: Ed Motta
Lyrics: Claudio Botelho
Musical Direction: Ed Motta and Claudio Botelho
Musical Supervision: Marcelo Castro
Arrangements / Orchestrations: Delia Fisher
Musical Preparation / Conductor: André Távora Kacowicz
Assistant Directors: Paula Sandroni, Tina Salles
Sets: Rogério Falcão
Costumes: Rita Murtinho
Scenic Design: Beto Carramanhos
Choreography: Renato Vieira
Sound Design: Marcelo Claret
Lighting: Paulo César Medeiros
Public Relations and Press: Marcia Niemeyer
Production Directors: Aniela Jordan, Beatriz Secchin Braga, Monica Athayde Lopes

A show by Charles Möeller and Claudio Botelho

Original Cast (2007 Season – João Caetano Theater – Rio de Janeiro)

Alessandra Maestrini – Amelia
Alessandra Verney – Bianca
Eliana Pittman – Rosa
Gottsha – Elvira
Ida Gomes – Old Stepmother
Marya Bravo – Madeleine
Rogéria – Odette
Zezé Motta – Carmen
Tatih Köhler – Clara
Raul Veiga – Herculano
Jonas Hammar – Alvaro
Cristiano Penna
Fabrício Negri
Jules Vandystadt
Rodrigo Cirne
Tuto Gonçalves

2008/2009 Season Cast (Carlos Gomes Theater – RJ)

Alessandra Maestrini – Amelia
Alessandra Verney – Bianca
Eliana Pittman – Rosa
Janaina Azevedo – Elvira
Ida Gomes / Myriam Thereza – Old Stepmother
Ivana Domenico – Madeleine
Marina Ruy Barbosa – Clara
Rogéria – Odette
Zezé Motta – Carmen
Jarbas Homem de Mello – Herculano
Pedro Sol – Alvaro
Betto Serrador
Marcel Octavio
Otavio Zobaran
Stein Junior
Tuto Gonçalves

2009 Season Cast – São Paulo (Sérgio Cardoso Theater)

Alessandra Maestrini – Amelia
Alessandra Verney – Bianca
Eliana Pittman – Rosa
Ivana Domenico – Madeleine
Janaina Azevedo / Renata Celidonio – Elvira
Malu Rodrigues – Clara
Rogéria – Odette
Suzana Faini – Old Stepmother
Zezé Motta – Carmen
Jarbas Homem de Mello – Herculano
Pedro Sol – Alvaro
Beto Serrador
Daniel Nunes
Marcel Octavio
Otávio Zobaran
Tuto Gonçalves

Orchestra:

Alexandre Brasil / Omar Cavalheiro – bass, guitar
Alex Freitas / Levi Chaves – alto sax, flute, clarinet
Gabriel Guenther / Marcio Romano – drums, percussion, vibraphone
Pedro Mibielli / Anderson Pequeno / Tomaz Soares – violin
Thaís Ferreira / Luciano Corrêa – cello
Vitor Gonçalves / Marcelo de Castro – piano, keyboard

(With gratitude and acknowledgement to Charles Möeller, Claudio Botelho, Ed Motta, and Tania Carvalho)

Copyright © 2014 by Josmar F. Lopes

‘7’ the Winner! The Brazilian Musical Comes of Age — Part Two: ‘Ele Vai Voltar’ (‘He’ll Come Back, I Vow’)

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AN ANALYSIS OF MÖELLER & BOTELHO’S 7 – THE MUSICAL, ONE OF THE FINEST MUSICAL-THEATER PIECES EVER TO HIT THE BRAZILIAN STAGE

The characters of 7 - The Musical: Amelia, Old Stepmother, Carmen, Rosa, Odette
The characters of 7 – The Musical: Amelia, Old Stepmother, Carmen, Rosa, Odette

At first glance, I was heedless of 7 – The Musical’s innate Brazilianness, nor was I prepared for the show’s startling revelations when they eventually came. Accordingly, I am indebted to Claudio Botelho, Charles Möeller, and Ed Motta for having stressed this singular aspect of their work and the different shades of meaning to be mined from it.

However, as I delved more deeply into the plot and characters associated with their opus magnum — and, above all, the musical’s score and its ingenious placement within the context of the drama — it all started to come together for me.

As in all great works, “7” has a good deal of psychological acuity associated with it, which the show’s music convincingly conveys. The story unfolds, starkly and resolutely, in seamless fashion, with each new disclosure set atop the previous one, until, in the end, the inexorability of the characters’ plight is unveiled and the cycle begins anew.

The show’s dramatis personae are treated with a degree of compassion, if not the cold, calculating hand of a trial lawyer. In this analysis, the audience participates as both judge and jury: “witnesses” are called on to present their “case,” as the “evidence” begins to mount either for or against the protagonists. Theatergoers are then left to their own devices in rendering a “verdict” on the characters’ individual motives.

This marks 7 – The Musical out to be a psychodrama, albeit one that boasts some terrifically lyrical moments. Ample in scope, unsparing in its criticism of Brazilian society’s moral failings and full of emotional density, Möeller & Botelho’s show is redolent of a brutally pessimistic view of human nature at its most repellent (a trait shared with Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd). Yet, it’s blessed with a clear-eyed perspective that allows for sufficient appreciation of what these characters have gone through — characters who desperately need to be understood, to say nothing of being loved.

In this climate, even the troubled personality of Amelia, while engaging the audience’s sympathy from the start, would fill whole volumes of case histories in modern psychosis. Furthermore, the entire play is a study in obsessive-compulsive behavior, a doctoral thesis on how far individuals will go to obtain the object of their desire.

The Past is Prologue

The play begins at a railroad station in Rio de Janeiro. It’s not a “real” railroad station, of course, but more of a mental waiting room — a close cousin to Sartre’s No Exit, where people are trapped by past events beyond their control. It’s a symbol, much like that of a wedding ring (the image of family unity) or other key objects: the train, leaving the station, takes its passengers to another realm. This “Rio of the mind,” then, is a drab, uninviting place in a non-existent, not-so-Marvelous City, a bleak and dismal stopover point only a writer of, say, Edgar Allan Poe’s Gothic sensibilities could dream up.

The first notes to be sounded from the seven-man orchestra are from Amelia’s solo, “Ele vai voltar” (“He’ll Come Back, I Vow”), which she sings a bit later in the act with respect to her philandering husband, the handsome Herculano. His absence at the beginning of the drama, made constant by this recurrent theme, is the spark that sets the plot in motion. In sum, this musical reference all-but guides and drives the story forward.

A huge clock is lowered onto center stage, a clock with no hands on its face — a clue we are dealing with the literal suspension of time and space. To illustrate this point, the clock glows brightly in the manner of a full moon in autumn.

The clock and 7 - The Musical (Rogerio Falcao)
The Clock and Train in 7 – The Musical (Courtesy: Rogerio Falcao)

Beneath the clock is the silhouette of a young girl lying on a bench. This is Clara, the ward of Old Stepmother. As the music dies down, Old Stepmother enters and begins to count off the numbers from one to seven, to the tune of “He’ll Come Back.” She then relates the story of Snow White — probably for the thousandth time — to a thoroughly disinterested Clara, who storms off in protest, followed by the stepmother.

“Song of the Wishes”

The scene dissolves to find Amelia, an excitable young woman in her 20′s, in a heated exchange with the clairvoyant, Dona Carmen. Passions boil over as the women argue back-and-forth about their differing points of view concerning Amelia’s tasks, in particular the unnamed seventh task:

Um rato branco
Sementes de romã
Um dente siso
Sapato de mulher
Um livro bento
E uma aliança…

A pale white rodent
Some pomegranate seeds
A tooth that’s rotted
A lady’s high-heeled shoe
A Holy Bible
A wedding band…

Amelia insists it can’t be done, but Carmen counters that it’s the most important task of all. We get bits and pieces of information as to why Amelia is there in the first place: to get her man back. But in order to get her man back she must perform this task within a specified time frame. Desperation sets in on Amelia’s face, while Carmen attempts to soothe her with a cup of red tea — a very potent tea, it would seem.

“He’ll Come Back, I Vow”

The scene changes to a deserted street along the Lapa Arches, where Amelia, disguised as a hooker, lures an unsuspecting gentleman to a bench. Her ensuing actions, we soon learn, become part of the seventh task. There’s a clever riff on the theme of Jack the Ripper with an ironic twist, in that Amelia is transformed into a knife-wielding assassin who tears out her victim’s heart. Not out of lust or hate, but simply out of necessity, a clever joke pulled off by Charles and Claudio.

You see, unbeknown to Amelia, who takes a wedding ring from the gentleman’s finger, she has just killed the notorious Belt Strangler, a vicious fiend and murderer who’s been prowling the streets of Rio dismembering the bodies of other ladies of the evening — seven of them, to be precise. By eliminating this cold-blooded killer, Amelia now becomes the very thing she has dispatched.

Concurrent with the above, Old Stepmother resumes her recitation of the fairy tale of Snow White to Clara. On top of Amelia’s savage act, a one-note theme is repeated over and over again, with Old Stepmother recounting the point in her story where the Evil Queen orders the Huntsman to kill the innocent Snow White. This is juxtaposed with Amelia’s raising of her knife high above the Dead Man’s corpse and bringing it crashing down onto his chest. The blows are punctuated by her cries of despair and eerie notes high up in the strings, reminiscent to discerning ears of Bernard Herrmann’s score from the movie Psycho.

Myths, legends, and fairy tales all have their basis in fact. But here, the lines of each are blurred as to what is real and what is fantasy. Boundaries have been crossed; the so-called lines of demarcation are breached, until we finally lose count of the number of times the realm of fantasy takes over the reality portion of the characters’ minds.

After the heinous deed is done, Amelia washes her hands clean of the crime. With that, the “Ele vai voltar” melody returns, the pacing slow and deliberate, like that of a funeral dirge — portentous, foreboding, full of ominous dread and, most tellingly of all, of pain. Short phrases are interspersed with extended vowel sounds that predominate in the original Portuguese (given below). They reinforce the sense of longing and inevitability, along with a certain satisfaction, on Amelia’s part, for what she has done in the name of love:

Ele vai voltar
Vai voltar, vai
Certo como o sol
E a lua vão voltar no céu
Sempre
Sem nenhum senão
Sem pensar, sem
Ele vai ser meu
Meu dono, como eu sempre quis
Sempre, meu bem

He’ll come back, I vow
He’ll come running back
As the sun and stars
The moonlight will come out as well
Always
No exceptions, none
No thoughts or words, none
He’ll be mine I swear
My lover, as I’ve always dreamed
Always, I swear

The tune is stretched almost to the breaking point, the notes of the opening lines (“Como um cão que fugira / Como um filho que torna / Como velhos amigos / Como a água no rio / Como tudo na vida” – “Like a runaway servant / Who returns to his master / Like a dear old companion / Like a wave on the water / Flowing one after another”) search in vain for the main melody, as well as reflect Amelia’s agitated state of mind. It’s a powerful yet subtle example of the psycho-acoustic properties of music.

The closing portion of her song, “As portas que vão fechar / Atrás de nós, meu bem / Meu cálido amor” – “The doors are now closing / Closing fast, my love, my heart / The one I adore” — especially the oft-repeated line, “the doors are now closing” (a recurring theme throughout the drama) — represent a combination portal to the past and doorway to the future, an indication of the shifting time-frames the characters must go through as their stories are told. The melody will be repeated once more, near the end of the show.

In this instance, the window of opportunity is left open for Amelia to achieve her goal of getting Herculano to come back to her side, along with fulfilling the seventh task (and her tragic destiny), which is to bring Dona Carmen “A heart that’s strong, still young and vibrant, happy and free” (“Traga um coração ainda moço, quente e feliz”).

Dance Around the Dead Man

There is a comic interlude in which the three prostitutes, Dona Odette, Madeleine, and Elvira, who figure prominently later on in the drama, come upon the Dead Man’s body and mockingly comment on its rapid deterioration. The hookers get the shock of their lives, however, when the presumably deceased Belt Strangler rises to perform an uproarious song-and-dance routine (“Dance Around the Dead Man”), to their utter consternation.

With its jaunty, hurdy-gurdy-like orchestration and infectious tap-dancing rhythm, this is an outlandishly bizarre episode, filled with a touch of the macabre — a thoroughly ghoulish scene that, while we may scratch our heads in wonderment as to its relevance to the plot, is just another of those inside jokes planted by the authors to remind us that perhaps what we’re really witnessing is a true hell on earth, where the dead refuse to stay dead. This is another way of advertising one of the show’s pet themes, i.e., that one’s past actions and misdeeds won’t stay buried for long (which we will see).

“Take This Woman Far”

Clara & Old Stepmother (Photo: Paulo Ruy Barbosa)
Clara & Old Stepmother (Photo: Paulo Ruy Barbosa)

We move on to Old Stepmother’s balcony, where a Rapunzel-like Clara complains to her stepmother of the sheltered life she’s been leading as a prisoner in her own home. The scene shifts to Carmen’s parlor, where we meet, in flashback, Amelia’s “godmother,” Dona Rosa. The two witches, one “good” and one “bad” (which one is which can be deemed interchangeable), state their individual cases with respect to the girl Bianca. Amelia remembers her as the pretty little tart that lured Herculano away.

In the middle of Rosa and Amelia’s conversation, Bianca’s figure appears in the background. She’s seen sewing at her window, which mirrors the Snow White story Old Stepmother repeated to Clara earlier on. Bianca pricks her finger on the needle, whereby blood is drawn. This is followed by Amelia’s remark of how the woman does nothing but stare out her window, waiting for Herculano to pass. Rosa insists she’s not a woman at all but a mere child, which if one recalls Bruno Bettelheim’s Freudian interpretation of Grimm’s fairy tales, the bleeding is tantamount to Bianca’s having achieved her womanhood — in other words, Rosa’s assertions can’t support this physical confirmation that the child is all but grown up.

Carmen and Rosa, each in their respective time period, tell Amelia the facts of married life: of husbands that abandon their wives for “other women,” and the women who chase after them, in the bluesy number, “Leva essa mulher” (“Take this woman far”). They pronounce a curse upon Bianca, wishing her the worst of luck, not realizing that, despite their imprecations, bad thoughts can only produce more bad thoughts. To their knowledge, it’s always the “other woman” who makes out best.

In view of Herculano’s abandonment, neither Amelia nor Bianca, nor (strangely enough) any of the other characters ever question what led to his leaving, or why the blame for his having fled Amelia’s embrace rests solely on poor Bianca’s shoulders. There is no consideration of Amelia’s involvement in the matter, which or may not have precipitated his departure.

Considering the feeble fellow that Herculano turns out to be, there’s no need for explanations. Indeed, all the males in the story are depicted as feckless and weak-willed. They’re empty-headed and vapid, with continuously roving eyes for a pretty face, which is why the seven young men, who perform the function of a typical Greek chorus, are described in the libretto as “dwarfs”: they are short not in their physical stature but in the shortsightedness of their relationship to women.

Similarly, the women are portrayed as having a like-minded purpose, which is to keep their men from wandering at all costs — even if those men are undeserving of their love, as they often prove throughout.

“Sleep My Little Babe”

In another change of scenery, we are finally in the presence of Herculano and Bianca. Bianca, a raven-haired, rosy-cheeked beauty, is in a hallucinatory state. She spots Amelia’s visage everywhere she turns. To Herculano, the man unworthy of either woman’s affections, Bianca is “seeing things.” It’s all in her head, of course. We take note of how Amelia is frequently shown as complaining about her fate while, on the other hand, her counterpart, Bianca, is equally unsatisfied with her station in life. Contrast this with Clara’s own whining in regard to her situation above.

No sooner has Herculano spoken, when Amelia approaches, watching and waiting behind the scenes. Bianca holds the child she conceived with Herculano in her arms. The baby starts to cry, but Bianca is unable (or incapable?) of silencing it. Taking the child from her, Herculano soothes the wailing infant with a lullaby: “Dorme meu neném que o bicho vem” – “Sleep my little babe, your daddy came.” Bianca continues her lament, insisting she’s being punished for stealing another woman’s spouse, blaming it on a spell that’s been woven around her, with more mischief to come.

The past continues to collide with the present. The characters appear to live in the present and the past simultaneously. All that’s left for them is the “possibility” of change; a dissatisfaction with how things are and an overpowering urge to alter their situation now, which can only affect how things will be in the future.

Somber chords return for the next scene. Amelia, who is faced with Dona Carmen’s rejection of both the Belt Stranger’s heart and wedding band (“This ring is worn. If it belongs to the owner of this heart, it’s an old heart. It’s worthless!”), gets more and more despondent as the time for completion of her task grows shorter and shorter. Feeling somewhat sympathetic toward her client, Carmen suggests an alternative plan. Why not seek out Dona Odette, a longtime friend, who “owes” her a favor or two?

Carmen writes down some instructions and tells Amelia to give them to Odette, who will know what to do. In the interim, Amelia need have no more concerns about Bianca or Herculano. “Leave them to me,” she gloats. Carmen hands Amelia a black book of spells, with directions to practice the dark arts during her stay with Odette and her (ahem) “girls,” as a way of strengthening Amelia’s resolve. Amelia does just that.

“It’s Off to Work We Go”

Glockenspiel and bells are heard, as Clara recreates Snow White’s discovery of the Seven Dwarfs’ hut in the haunted forest, to the tune of “Heigh-Ho.” Interrupting the proceedings, Old Stepmother launches into a spell of her own by reciting the part where the Evil Queen turns herself into a kindly old lady: “Now, begin your magic spell,” she cries.

Madeleine, Odette & Elvira (Photo: Paulo Ruy Barbosa)
Madeleine, Odette & Elvira (Photo: Paulo Ruy Barbosa)

There is a quick scene change, back to Odette’s boarding house, where Amelia, alone in room number 7, is reading rapidly and excitedly from the black book of spells. At the same time, Carmen is in her parlor, exhorting her tarot cards to show her a sign that all will be well. “Ask, and you will receive,” she sings. “It’s all in the cards!”

Amelia becomes the witch, guiding her life as the book of spells suggests. Carmen is reduced here to the job of observer, coaxing things along and nudging Amelia towards the inevitability of her fate. Carmen disguises herself as a vendor, just as Old Stepmother indicated above, and goes to see Bianca in her home, thus fulfilling her promise to Amelia to “take care” of the young girl.

Transition to Bianca, on her balcony — again, the analogy to Rapunzel trapped in her tower. Carmen pays her a friendly visit. She is outgoing and concerned, and succeeds in worming her way into Bianca’s fortress-like abode.

“Scrub That Dirty Stair”

Meanwhile, the two prostitutes, Elvira and Madeleine, put Amelia to work. They treat her harshly, in the manner of the two stepsisters who made Cinderella’s life a pure hell, by working her fingers to the bone. Amelia is doing the most menial of tasks: scrubbing the floors, washing the clothes, cleaning the staircase, and ironing the clothes.

Suddenly, Amelia has a vision of Herculano: “Seu rosto me persegue em tudo / meu coração é seu – “Your face is with me here, my darling / my heart is in your hands,” she sings, which foreshadows the melody of the ensemble (“De noite o principe me espera / em todos os umbrais” – “At night my prince is waiting for me / his fate is in my hands”) that closes the act. At the height of her confrontation with the whores, Amelia faints from exhaustion. Dona Odette orders that she be put to bed.

Just then, the pure fool Alvaro arrives at the residence. Odette pays little heed to this apparently wet-behind-the-ears boy who wants to be initiated into manhood. However, upon learning he’s the son of her oldest client, Odette suggests an appropriate companion, to be found in room number 7. “But do give her some time to… pull herself together,” she adds.

“The Light of Day is There”

The stage dynamic changes with Bianca’s crude transformation from a gorgeous young girl to a hideous she-creature: disfigured and disguised, her beauty marred and youthful appearance gone, Bianca’s hair is shorn of its luscious locks, while her face is made up to coarsen her features. Softly and gently, the music repeats the theme associated with the Dead Man’s dance, but the intent is drastically different: it’s now a siren’s song, calling Bianca to venture out into the city — Carmen’s invitation to take a figurative bite out of the apple, thus initiating her into Rio nightlife to which she is unaccustomed:

A luz do sol
Espera por você
Manhã calor
Calçadas pra você

The light of day
Is there waiting for you
The morning glow
The sidewalks just for you

Now begins the most revelatory number in the act, “Se essa rua” – “If this pathway,” sung by Bianca and Herculano as a duet. The analogy here is of two ships in the night going in opposite directions and passing each other by, with the road less traveled for one of them (i.e., Bianca) leading to new horizons. Herculano attempts to prevent Bianca from leaving — but is he really there? The scene plays out in Bianca’s imagination as a projection of her innermost wants. The fact is: Herculano isn’t present at all. Still, their duet could conceivably have taken place at an earlier time.

The dwarfs materialize with their umbrellas — protection from the wind and snow? Perhaps, or possibly to spare them the fallout from the lies the characters have been wallowing in. Bianca can never convince Herculano to mend his ways (neither can Amelia, only she doesn’t know it yet). Love means something else entirely to this man than it does for Bianca. His idea of marriage is having Bianca locked up for her “protection” and personal use. “Don’t go outside,” he admonishes. “It’s dark, it’s cold, and the wolf is lurking about.” Bianca sees things from a different angle: her future is outside their door (or beyond the portal). It’s another life she longs for, one that Herculano is unwilling to give her. Their scene ends with a deep and passionate kiss.

“Before I Forget Myself in You, Stay”

We’re now in room number 7. Alvaro and Amelia are alone. She takes a dagger out from under the pillow and places it in her hand. Here’s her chance, the heart that she’s been waiting for, one that has never known love. Her goal is within her grasp, her task almost complete. So what does Amelia do? Like Bianca before her, she kisses Alvaro, tenderly, passionately, on the mouth, with Carmen’s voice buzzing in her ears:

Traga um coração
Ainda moço
Quente e feliz

Bring me a heart that’s strong
Still young and vibrant
Happy and free

Try as she might, Amelia can’t kill the boy. Instead, she sings a seductive little ditty to accordion accompaniment (reminiscent of French cabaret music), the love song “Agora para sempre” – “Now and forever”, while she undresses the boy. It’s her version of the siren’s song, similar to yet so different from Carmen’s ode to Bianca: bouncy, flavorful, and in three-quarter time. Miraculously (or maybe not), the two young people fall in love. They’re all over each other on Amelia’s bed, as they give themselves over to their passion.

“Time and Again, Nighttime Has Come”

A change of scene finds us back at the Lapa Arches. Men are also looking for “love,” in the arms of other women. Women are plying their trade by exchanging “love” for money. Flash forward to Bianca, who’s trying to get home. Having lost her way, she is desperate to get back to her daughter before Herculano returns. Locked out of people’s homes and hopelessly alone, Bianca is exposed to the elements of wind and snow, which begin to pick up. There’s a veritable blizzard onstage, emblematic of the storm that’s raging inside the characters’ souls.

We return momentarily to Amelia’s room. She tells Alvaro to leave, but he naively refuses. The full moon reveals itself, towering over all. It has replaced the clock from the opening scene as the harbinger of time running out. Amelia insists that Alvaro must go — now! She tells him about the spell, but he contends that there is no spell, that it’s all in her head (sound familiar?). Bianca knocks on every door she finds, but no one responds. The portal is now closed!

Finale to Act 1 of 7 - The Musical (arteview.com.br)
Finale to Act 1 of 7 – The Musical (arteview.com.br)

The chorus of dwarfs and prostitutes sing of Prince Charming, waiting for his princess. They invade Amelia’s bedroom to remind her that nightfall has arrived: “Mais uma vez / A noite cai” – “Time and again / Nighttime has come.” Bianca repeats the words, “A rua, a rua, a rua, a rua” (“The pathway, pathway, pathway, pathway”) over and over, to no avail.

Clara now comes back onto the scene. She takes a bite out of an apple, the forbidden fruit of truth (or what-have-you). “Snow White still lives,” Old Stepmother announces, “and she’s a thousand times more beautiful than you, Evil Queen.” With that, Amelia lets out a primal scream. She has no one else to turn to, nowhere else to go. She’s at the end of her rope. Whatever will she do…?

BLACKOUT

End of Act I

(To be continued…)

(With gratitude and acknowledgement to Charles Möeller, Claudio Botelho, Ed Motta, and Tania Carvalho)

Copyright © 2014 by Josmar F. Lopes

‘7’ the Winner! — The Brazilian Musical Comes of Age (Part One)

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AN APPRECIATION OF MÖELLER & BOTELHO’S 7 – THE MUSICAL, ONE OF THE FINEST MUSICAL-THEATER PIECES EVER TO HIT THE BRAZILIAN STAGE

THE STORY:

7 -- The Musical (Photo: Rogerio Falcao)
7 — The Musical (Photo: Rogerio Falcao)

Amelia has lost her true love, Herculano, who left her for the arms of another woman. Bianca is the “other woman,” a girl “purer, truer, and more beautiful” than Amelia could ever be. Desperate for guidance, Amelia asks her godmother, Dona Rosa, for advice: “Go seek out the fortuneteller Dona Carmen who, they say, knows better than anyone about the afflictions of the heart.”

Besides being a clairvoyant, Dona Carmen is also a witch. She promises to bring Herculano back to Amelia in seven days. No problem, no delays. But to make her wish come true Amelia must perform seven tasks.

The first six are simple, easy, and quick. But the seventh task is the most difficult of all: “Bring me a heart that’s strong,” demands Carmen, “still young and vibrant, happy and free — a beating heart ripped from the chest of a youth who has never known love.”

Despondent and alone, Amelia leaves her home and throws herself onto the streets of Rio, among the hookers, vagrants, and other denizens of the night. Disguised as a prostitute, Amelia finds an unwilling victim and brings the beating heart back to Dona Carmen. But the clairvoyant, upon learning of its age, refuses to accept the gift: “I asked you for a young heart, one that has never known love. This one won’t do, it’s too old and worn.” Amelia is on the verge of giving up, but the task cannot be interrupted. Otherwise, a terrible curse will befall her.

Amelia tries one more time to prevail. She stops at a bordello, run by Dona Odette, an old Rio madam. There she meets a young man named Alvaro, who has come to learn about love. He spends his “first night” with Amelia. But their lives will be filled with complications: other paths begin to cross, other stories begin to intertwine, things get more and more complicated, and nothing ever comes out the way we expect them to.

Meanwhile, a mysterious old lady continues to tell the story of Snow White to her young step-daughter. It’s a story that never seems to end…

*            *            *

The above outline, which plays like a mid-season episode from the ABC-TV series Once Upon a Time, was taken from the Möeller-Botelho Website for their 2007 production of 7 – The Musical. A contemporary reworking of Snow White, with fragments of other well-known children’s stories (Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty) mixed into the stew, 7 – The Musical has done for Brazilian musical theater what Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods did for Broadway: i.e., it steered the same adult course that Sondheim first took when he revitalized American musical theater by operating within a noir framework, which makes it the perfect post-Halloween treat!

In September 2012, I wrote about the gestation of this modern classic (see the link to my post: https://josmarlopes.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/be-careful-what-you-wish-for-a-brazilian-fairy-tale-musical-comes-to-the-rio-stage/), one that’s yet to reach our shores.

Be that as it may, the recent announcement in Brazil of a TV-miniseries (in seven chapters, no less) based on the award-winning show has rekindled interest in the musical’s merits. In addition to which, director and book writer Charles Möeller concluded a two-month master class in June 2013, at the Casa de Artes de Laranjeiras (House of the Arts of Laranjeiras), or CAL for short, in which a student presentation of 7 – The Musical was the featured showcase.

There’s even a sequel to their hit show in the works!

This latest article, then, includes a follow-up conversation with two of the show’s creators: Charles Möeller and musical director, lyricist, and adapter Claudio Botelho — the Batman and Robin of the Brazilian stage, Os Reis dos Musicais, the undisputed “Kings of Musical Theater” in South America’s largest country. Divided into two parts, the article concludes with a rumination on, and analysis of, the play’s music and plot (Warning to readers: Spoiler Alerts ahead!).

THE INTERVIEW:

Josmar Lopes – Welcome back, Claudio and Charles! I must confess that my initial reaction to your show was one of surprise at how good it really is. I loved Ed Motta’s music — it’s dark and gloomy, just what a “noir musical” needs. One of the melodies has a one-note theme that reminds me of Wojciech Kilar’s score for Bram Stoker’s Dracula: slow and deliberate, with lots of deep bass. There’s also a piano-keyboard arpeggio in the early going that’s similar to Sweeney Todd’s motif. This was probably due to Motta’s musical eclecticism (see my earlier interview with jazz-funk artist Ed Motta: https://josmarlopes.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/meet-ed-motta-the-real-music-man-of-brazilian-musical-theater/) and to his extensive record collection.

Claudio Botelho – I assure you that “7” is totally OURS and original in every way. It’s not based on any existing work, novel, or film, and it owes nothing to other authors. It’s a work that took several years to complete, constructed in a manner that’s not been tried before, by our starting out with nothing but the music and around it building a story line with lyrics and text.

Charles Möeller – Without a doubt, this is our most mature piece, one that underwent a very unusual process. I always thought it was easy to do theater, to write a scene, but with everything connected to my brand of humor. It was this way with As Malvadas (The Wicked Ones), [a show from 1997], and Cole Porter: He Never Said He Loved Me [from 2000]. 7 – The Musical went in the opposite direction. In fact, it was a treatise on envy, on beauty, and in sum — something I discovered long after — it was an exceedingly individual treatment of the Snow White story viewed from the vantage point of the stepmother. The work places the stepmother at the center of the action, and Snow White (in this case, Bianca) in the role of the villain.

'7 - The Musical' (with Alessandra Maestrini)
7 – The Musical  with Alessandra Maestrini (moellerbotelho.com.br)

Josmar Lopes – In that respect, your play is as good as, if not better than, an opera! Arias, duets, trios, choruses, dance — it’s a fabulous, fabulous showpiece, and you guys should be congratulated for having written it. It’s not what I would call a “family-type” show, but there are lots of folks out there who simply love The Addams Family or The Nightmare Before Christmas and other dark-themed works. There’s always an audience for the macabre, especially around Halloween, so that shouldn’t be a hindrance. Given time, it can easily “catch on.” And it’s certainly not your typical Brazilian musical.

Claudio Botelho – “7” is about love and revenge, but also about black magic and the way some Brazilians deal with their romantic issues. But I’m sure none of the above makes it an obvious “Brazilian” musical. “7” is Brazilian in its essence, in that it’s a fairy tale that takes place in a phantasmagorical Rio de Janeiro. It talks about things that we Brazilians understand well, [things] such as aunts, godmothers, neighbors, novenas, powerful curses, prayers, voodoo, bordellos, old prostitutes, etc., without our having to fill up the stage with mulatas. I’m ashamed of not being very modest about this show, but I have the feeling that something really new and interesting can be satisfying for any audience, whether they be Brazilian or foreign.

Josmar Lopes – Where did these ideas originate? And what is the significance of the numerical title?

Charles Möeller – Why is the play called “7”? Because of the wicked witch’s seven requests and because the whole symbolism of the Brothers Grimm is based on the number “7” — seven dwarfs, seven hills, seven brothers, a mirror broken in seven places, seven years of bad luck, etc. In a certain way, concealed or not, all this is in the play; after all, the Grimm Brothers’ stories were based on German folklore, which is rich in all these myths. My family is German and I grew up listening to these stories. The strangest thing of all is that these tales are emasculation stories with relation to women. The stepmother is bad because she’s beautiful and powerful, and she’ll be punished with ugliness and old age. Why do women, when they reach old age, lose whatever value they had in youth? A king can get fat because he’s rich and powerful, but not his wife, who goes from being a princess to being a witch. The social mind-set contained in these stories is impressively retrograde. It was my immersion in all these tales, thinking long and hard about them, together with my fascination for the suburban universe created by playwright Nelson Rodrigues [who was a cousin of my father’s], that I wrote 7 – The Musical.

7 Curses (arteview.com.br)
7 Curses, 7 Wishes (arteview.com.br)

Claudio Botelho – I would add that because of the way we built the show around the personalities of our unconventional cast — Zezé Motta (Dona Carmen), Rogéria (Dona Odette), Eliana Pittman (Dona Rosa), Ida Gomes (Old Stepmother), and Tatih Köhler (Clara); Alessandra Maestrini, the Fernanda Montenegro of musical theater, as Amelia; Bianca, magisterially portrayed by Alessandra Verney — our biggest challenge was to create a Brazilian musical, but without samba, without mulatas, without Carnival, and without oba-oba. This actually conspired against us, because people accused [our show] of being much too somber.

Josmar Lopes – It certainly looks that way, at least on DVD. That is odd, considering the locale is supposed to be “Marvelous City” Rio.

Charles Möeller – Although the play takes place in Rio de Janeiro, there’s not one ray of sunshine to be seen. It even snows there! And with Ed Motta’s music, very individual in timbre, people just sat there half in shock. We were insistent and, slowly but surely, we conquered the public.

Josmar Lopes – How did you find working with such a fabulous cast?

Charles Möeller – It was fascinating writing characters for these great actresses and put into practice all that we’ve learned through the years. And “7” was our cauldron of incantations, our laboratory, our Frankenstein monster, but with a happy ending.

Josmar Lopes – It still amazes me that Motta was able to compose such strikingly modern-sounding music, while at the same time look backward at older styles. There are elements of Orff’s Carmina burana in his melodies, as well as evidence of Ennio Morricone’s harmonica theme from Once Upon a Time in the West — speeded up, of course — in the number, “O coração no bosque” (“The Heart in the Forest”), that opens the second act, which was cut from the production in São Paulo.

Claudio Botelho – I also liked the “Heart in the Forest” scene. It was a song without lyrics (for voices and melody only) that Ed Motta placed in one of his CD retrospectives that I “appropriated” for our show. But we thought it wasn’t fully realized, so we cut the scene instead. It was supposed to have been a number in which the “seven dwarfs” (the seven young men) are skating on the ice when suddenly they find a woman [Bianca] frozen in the water under their feet. Although the scene was cut for the São Paulo run, the idea stuck and perhaps we can resurrect it in our next production of the play.

Josmar Lopes – That’s no different from what the great opera composers used to do, Mozart included: they would write scenes and arias for their favorite singers, then add or subtract numbers for other theaters or when other singers took over the roles. Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, for instance, is a good example: he has two difficult but very different airs, both written at different times and for different singers. In Mozart’s day, only one of them was sung. But today, most tenors sing both “Dalla sua pace” and “Il mio tesoro” because the role is so short that, what the heck, they wind up singing the two arias anyway.

Charles Möeller – The fact that we closed Act I with Amelia’s ear-shattering scream, upon her learning the tragic fate that awaited her — whereby she is destined to kill the young man Alvaro, the person she most adored — became part of the jigsaw puzzle that resulted in the audience asking itself the question, “What’s all this about?” After the intermission, we had to immediately clear up the issue we raised before, not add to the confusion. We needed to go back to the point of departure. That was the main problem for us. This is why we decided to cut the scene.

Finale to Act I (arteview.com.br)
Finale to Act I (arteview.com.br)

Josmar Lopes – There was another cut mentioned in your show, the “Scene of the Baby.”

Claudio Botelho – To tell you the truth, this scene is extremely important. [It] explains the original situation of Amelia, who was abandoned by her mother and who, in the end, takes Clara into her bosom as her own daughter, so the circle can never be closed for her.

Josmar Lopes – Why was the scene cut if it was so important?

Claudio Botelho – The scene is very difficult, in that the three stars, Zezé Motta, Rogéria, and Eliana Pittman, all have to act about 20 years younger, to physically attempt to be 20 years younger; in other words, to be totally different from their older selves earlier on. Unfortunately, in the middle of rehearsals we realized it would be too demanding for them, so we decided to drop the scene. I kept the scene in the print version I sent you, because I felt it gave the song about the baby (“Foi um bebê que bateu na minha porta” – “A Little Babe Came Knocking at My Doorstep”) a better explanation for what came before with the scene intact than without it. With that scene fully restored (with the three older actresses), the baby song becomes a trio. It’s also a funny scene, with some interesting bits for the performers.

Josmar Lopes – It’s a funny scene, all right, but without it there’s a huge gap in continuity and the act feels like it could use more music.

Claudio Botelho – I see no problem in including more music in Act II. And I also feel you are right in your perception that there is a hole [there], which comes from the above cut. If we return to our original concept, the scene becomes fuller and denser, and the play gains immeasurably from it.

Josmar Lopes – What did the critics and reviewers have to say about your play?

Herculano and Bianca (alessandraverney.com.br)
Herculano and Bianca (alessandraverney.com.br)

Claudio Botelho – The critics were unanimous in placing 7 – The Musical as a watershed event in the category of dramaturgy in Brazil. The noted theater critic for O Globo, Barbara Heliodora, expressed some reservations about the music, but she praised the qualities of the show quite highly.

Josmar Lopes – Indeed she did. I translated her review from your Website into English, along with several others. They’ll appear in Part Two as a continuation of this article. Speaking of continuations, I hear you and Charles are working on a sequel to “7.” Does it have a name?

Claudio Botelho – We call it Veronica or 13. I’m doing the lyrics and music. Charles is writing the book.

Charles Möeller – “7” is the first part of a trilogy. Veronica or 13 is not exactly a sequel, it’s more of a spinoff, but from the same Nelson Rodrigues-type universe that I find so fascinating. It takes place in the 1950s, in a dark and somber Rio…

Josmar Lopes – Boy, does that sound familiar! What’s the story about?

Charles Möeller – On the night before her wedding to Pedro, Laura discovers she’s fallen in love with his brother, Frederico, and so she gets involved with a murder plot. It’s a story of twists-and-turns involving deaths and curses, revenge killings and declarations of love, ghosts and phantoms and an unsolved family mystery! A game of love and ruin, which is why the number 13 turns up, a merry-go-round of violent passions: Pedro who loves Laura, who loves Frederico, who loves Veronica, who loves Pedro, Frederico and Laura, who is loved by Leticia… And from there it takes off!

Josmar Lopes – Wow, it’s “7” times “7” on steroids! How do you go about putting all these story elements together in a coherent pattern?

Claudio Botelho – First, we write the play as if there wasn’t any music at all, and then we begin to deconstruct the piece in order to transform it into a musical. Our process is to write a “bible” of sorts (Charles is the one who starts it off) so later we can trim the “fat” and leave only what’s essential…

Charles Möeller – It’s funny, but “7” is the show we’re most proud of — the show that won the most awards, that gave us the most artistic success, but it’s also the show that made the least money.

Josmar Lopes – That’s showbiz! Tell me about your master class, the one you taught at CAL (Casa de Artes de Laranjeiras) for two months, and your students’ performance of “7.”

Charles Möeller – Three years ago we started talking to CAL about conducting a master class or a workshop, or giving a lecture — in either case, a discussion that centered around musicals, to demystify their glamour, and to show people that we’re more like worker ants than lazy grasshoppers.

Josmar Lopes – I like the analogy to A Bug’s Life.

"Dance Around the Dead Man" (moellerbotelho.com.br)
“Dance Around the Dead Man” (moellerbotelho.com.br)

Charles Möeller – At first, I resisted doing the course. It would be two months of work, eight weeks in all — the same time period I use to rehearse a play. Claudio registered my name without consulting me. This would be the only vacation we’d have after ten years of work. My first reaction was to have a stroke! Then I said, “Okay, let’s go for it!” I had an idea that I wanted to try: to go through the real-life process of putting together a production of 7 – The Musical in eight weeks! I mean, it would be eight weeks of two classes per week: 16 four-hour rehearsals with auditions and practice in staging, with commentary as well as discussions about my working method! I told them everything, or almost everything, that I knew; and I heard a lot about what I didn’t know. It was two months that flew by, and believe it or not: we STAGED “7” complete, with some minor cuts and adaptations, and with an incredible cast!

Josmar Lopes – You must’ve been very proud of your pupils!

Charles Möeller – The night before the show, I was so uplifted that I was speechless. On the last day I saw that everyone had given everything they had, that qualitative leap I always expect from my casts! They shined, all of them, and were uplifted in kind, so much so that “7” came out as never before! The presentation of “7” in CAL was one of the best things I have ever done, because it was a blood pact, a magic spell that came to life.

Josmar Lopes – And with plans for an upcoming TV-miniseries still to come, let’s hope the spell lasts! But for now, what a wonderful way to end our interview: with a happy ending! Thank you, Charles and Claudio, for your time.

(End of Part One)

Copyright © 2013 by Josmar F. Lopes