Arty facts: Frankfort native to direct 'Black Orpheus' on Broadway

July 13, 2014 

Theater-Black Orpheus

FILE - This April 4, 2012 file photo shows playwright and director George C. Wolfe at a screening of the film"The Intouchables" in New York. Wolfe will direct a play adapted from the Oscar-winning film "Black Orpheus." Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynn Nottage will write the story. “Black Orpheus” is the 1959 film by Marcel Camus, recreating the Orpheus and Eurydice myth in the Rio de Janeiro carnival. (AP Photo/Starpix, Marion Curtis, File)


With all eyes on Brazil and the World Cup, Broadway is getting into the act with plans to adapt the Oscar-winning film Black Orpheus for the stage — and it will be directed by Frankfort native George C. Wolfe, right.

Producers said Monday that Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynn Nottage will write the story and Wolfe, who has won multiple Tony Awards for his work on Broadway, will direct. The musical will have its world premiere on Broadway, but no timetable has been set.

Black Orpheus is the 1959 film by Marcel Camus, recreating the Orpheus and Eurydice myth in the Rio de Janeiro Carnival. It won the Palme d'Or at Cannes that year and also a Golden Globe and an Oscar for best foreign-language film a year later. The soundtrack popularized the nascent genre of bossa nova.

The original movie — based on a play by Brazilian poet, lyricist, and playwright Vinícius de Moraes — was a French-Italian-Brazilian production directed by Marcel Camus and starred Marpessa Dawn and Breno Mello. The new musical's producers will be Stephen Byrd, Alia Jones-Harvey and Paula Marie Black.

"We are so thrilled to bring this classic piece of Brazilian popular culture to life onstage," Byrd said in a statement. "The World Cup is providing a wonderful international platform for Brazil right now, and we look forward to further spotlighting this legacy on Broadway."

Set against the exotic pageantry of Carnival, Black Orpheus tells the story of a couple who fall in love during Carnival and are forced to take a mystical journey to the underworld. The soundtrack introduced Antônio Carlos Jobim, who wrote A Felicidade, which opens the film, and Luiz Bonfá, who composed Manhã de Carnaval and Samba de Orfeu — the three tunes that became bossa nova classics.

The film got some renewed attention in the past year when the rock band Arcade Fire drew on the myth and the movie for its latest album, Reflektor.

Nottage won a Pulitzer Prize for her play Ruined, and her other works include Intimate Apparel and By the Way, Meet Vera Stark.

Playwright and director Wolfe, 59, has won Tonys for Angels in America: Millennium Approaches and for Bring in da Noise/Bring in da Funk. He graduated from Frankfort High School and briefly attended Kentucky State University.

Mark Kennedy, Associated Press

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