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Oba Oba '93 (10/01/1992 - 10/18/1992)


 

New York Times: "High-Spirited Rhythms From Brazil, in 'Oba Oba'"

"We say oba oba when we're happy," singers proclaimed in resounding tones at the Marquis Theater. By so doing, they implied that at least some people in Brazil are happy all the time.

"Oba Oba '93" is the latest in a series of extravagant Brazilian revues that Franco Fontana has been producing since 1984. It's a high-spirited spectacle, and the choreography by Roberto Abrahao involves virtually nonstop parading and kicking.

As conceived by Mr. Fontana, with costumes by Nino Cruz, "Oba Oba '93" is the kind of show in which everyone is decked out in either finery or next to nothing. It's certainly not subtle, nor is it profound. Yet the revue, which this dancegoer saw at its last preview performance on Wednesday night, is often endearingly giddy.

Musicians under the direction of Wilson Mauro play a potpourri of melodies ranging from such pop tunes as "Tico Tico" and "The Girl From Ipanema" to an arrangement of the "Bachiana Brasileira" No. 5 by Heitor Villa-Lobos, Brazil's greatest 20th-century classical composer. A vocal ensemble offers a variety of songs, most of them in Portuguese, a few in English. Eliana Estevao is the production's guest singer, and she made her voice ring out like a trumpet in jubilant passages and sigh like a cello during more intimate musical moments.

During the finale, spectators and performers danced together in the aisles as part of a carnival scene. In fact, the entire evening was a carnival. Although a few references to Brazilian history were dutifully made, the history lessons soon ended and the performers got down to what mattered most: singing, dancing, acrobatics and revelry.

Mr. Abrahao presented the female dancers in a tribute to Carmen Miranda that showed off their legs and an assortment of fruit-and-flower-adorned hats, and he devised several slinky variations on the samba, including an unusually throbbing one called the "samba reggae," which the program said had recently become a Brazilian fad.

The most spectacular dances were examples of capoeira, a form that combines dancing with tumbling and martial arts. The dancers turned their thrusting arms and legs into seemingly deadly weapons, did flip-flops in the air and balanced in headstands and shoulder stands. One man even slid across the floor on his head.

The demonstrations of capoeira occurred in the second of the revue's two acts. Yet other sequences in that act were not as effective as their counterparts in the first. This may be because "Oba Oba" grows almost relentlessly brassy. A few wistful numbers would add both variety and charm to the production. It also does not help matters that the proceedings are brutally over-amplified.

But these are snooty quibbles. "Oba Oba" has no other aim than to spread cheer. And that it does.


New York Times
10/02/1992

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