RIO the Musical

RIO the Musical

I was so inspired after my first visit to Rio de Janeiro in the mid-80’s, I wrote a musical about the tragic situation of the homeless street kids. The musical was never produced, because it takes over $10 million to mount a production. By the time I had recorded the musical and shopped it, the 80’s had come and gone and it was the new Millennium. Perhaps this was fortuitous, because in 2009, Rio was awarded the 2016 Olympic Summer Games. I decided to update my story and wrote a book. But enjoy listening to the music–it will give you further insights to the ironically beautiful culture of Brazil.

a Poperetta by Craig Wilson

Introduction, Plot Summary, and Casting
There is an invisible barrier that divides the world of money from the world of poverty.
Rio De Janeiro, once a world-class city now has over two million people in the slums, known as “favelas”, with nearly 60,000 children living on the streets. For generations, the family unit has broken down, with over one half of new births from un-wed mothers.

One of the many hillside favelas of Rio is Dona Marta Hill, housing 12,000 residents of mostly mixed race, barely able to read, grateful to find work for $1 an hour. Permission to enter Dona Marta must come from Tamanero, the local drug baron who operates a $50,000 a month business from a hill-top hideaway equipped with Uzi’s, AR-15 assault rifles and grenades. Tamanero hasn’t been seen on Rio’s streets since 1991, the year he killed his way to the top of the gang. A network of oleiros – lookouts – passes his decision in whispers down the maze of alleyways in minutes. Politicians ignore the hill, except at election time. Police, too, rarely go to Dona Marta except for a cut of the drug profits. A brief walk through the village shows a labyrinth of alleys littered by chicken droppings and running sewage. Some of the rats are so large they chase the cats. Shanties are bunched so tightly that neighbors pass borrowed items from window to window. The Roman Catholic Church up the hill has bullet holes up and down its concrete walls, the result of gang executions.

Tamanero rules the hill and sets the law. One teen-ager caught stealing a handbag had acid poured on his palm. A drunk who didn’t pay his beer tab had his nails pulled out.
Young boys, called “airplanes” run cocaine to customers for roughly $500 a week, quite a sum in a country with a minimum wage of $110 a month. An enforcer can earn many times that, and Tamanero offers a nice “retirement” plan: He pays for the burials of traffickers killed by police and gives their families lifetime pensions.

Yet, despite it all, Rio is one of the most beautiful places on earth, where often the most spectacular views are from the poor hillsides. The Corcovado hosts Cristo Redentor, or Christ the redeemer statue, 100 feet tall and 2,100 feet above sea level. Christ’s outstretched arms measure 90 feet wide. Beaches? Trees? Mountains? Beautiful People? In Brazil, one astounding city has it all. Most importantly, rich or poor, black, white, or inter-racial, residents enjoy life. People smile, people samba, and people love.

RIO is a passion play symbolizing the plight of poorer classes. The situation in RIO is no different than many third world mega urban developments. The situation in RIO is ALSO much closer in reality to the possibilities, which can happen in major American cities, if its citizens continue to ignore the increasing inner-city problems.

“A vida trata voce como voce ce trata”……..Life treats you as you treat yourself. RIO.

“A vida trata voce como voce ce trata”…..Life treats you as you treat yourself.

Summary of music: 35 total songs, including Overture, Finale, 8 reprises.

ACT ONE–16 Songs including intro music (overture)SCENE ONE

“Welcome to Rio”

Money exchange center near the exit of the airport

30 yr. old John Hawthorne arrives on a vacation to Rio. He is the son of a wealthy politician back in America. He has never been to Brazil or the upcoming Carnival. A black market seller of Brazilian “Reals”, (new currency also called Centavos) “hits” on the American to exchange his money. A Board of Tourism “Welcome Girl” keeps motioning to the US businessman on the best deal. He gets a better rate and goes over to thank her.

John Hawthorne represents naive America.

INTERMISSIONACT TWO –19 songs including 7 reprises
There is NO overture.

Music/Scenery Plot Summary
Overture The audience enters into a theatre decorated with distinct Brazilian décor, while soft Brazilian rhythms are playing. The stage is decorated to look like the Rio International Airport arrivals and baggage claim. To the left of the stage is the Christ Redeemer looking down on Rio (left dress balcony seats). To the right are favelas built up into the hills (right dress balcony seats) An old man pushes a broom in an empty airport. A small welcome band shows up in the early morning to play its traditional “welcome” to arriving passengers from overnight international flights.The Old Man symbolizes the consciousness of society.
Helena Alexandra (de) Barcelos is a bright girl in her twenties, working at the airport as a welcome host. She and her mother share an apartment to help make ends meet. John and Helena like each other, and he gets her telephone number. She explains that he must meet her mother Luisa to first get permission to date her however.Helena Alexandra (de) Barcelos is a Christ-like heroine, symbolic of the salvation possible given the right attitude.
(scene rotates)“Suck it up”
Checking into the Rio Park Hotel, at the corner of Ipanema and Copacabana BeachesDaniel Ribeiro is the “important” Executive Assistant Manager (Sub Garenta Executivo), who sucks up to all potentially big tipping businessmen. (Little Napoleon with a deep voice) He and his fumbling bell hop, Roberto Sanna are comic relief. Roberto Sanna is a bit like “Flounder” from Animal House.

SCENE FOUR“What did you Make Today? A tough but likeable 14-year old kid from the slums (Favela) named “Waterbug” is trying to convince his buddies on the street that he is a talented criminal and that “Crime does pay”.He is endearing, although tragically misguided, an “Artful Dodger” character, showing that people change given a chance.

As John Hawthorne walks out onto the strip, Waterbug attempts to show his pals how to pick pockets, but he is caught red handed. He and his friends try to run from John, passing John’s wallet back and forth until Waterbug is cornered with the wallet. Waterbug knocks down an old man and throws the wallet in the air in order to run away.

“What about the Children of Today”

The Old Man laments about the decline of his city and country, and poses the challenge that this scenario not happen in the future in either Rio or elsewhere. (full baritone voice)

SCENE FIVE“This Man” The apartment of Helena and her mother LuisaHelena asks permission from Luisa to date an American. The telephone rings, and Luisa turns the phone over to Helena.

Luisa is the hard-working, single parent who worries over her only child Helena, who was born out of wedlock.

SCENE SIX“Tamanero” Waterbug boasts to his friends of his aspirations. He lives in the streets with his Uncle Miguel, at the base of Dona Marta Hill, the top of which is the hideout for Senior Tamanero, the cocaine king. To all locals, Dona Marta Hill is referred to as “Santa Marta” because of the newfound drug money helping to pay many bills.
“King of the Hill” Waterbug vows to someday be somebody.
SCENE SEVEN In the Lobby, Ribeiro is showing Sanna how to make better tips. They walk up to John Hawthorne’s Hotel Room to deliver the flowers he ordered. He also gives directions on how to find Helena’s house.

“Service with a smile” is a three-part melody-round, first sung by DR and RS. Then the dialog fades, and lights come up at the base of Santa Marta Hill, where Waterbug is asking his Uncle Miguel to get him into the gang as a drug runner. Miguel again instructs Waterbug on the importance of service. Finally, as John Hawthorne is leaving the hotel, maids in the hallways and lobby again sing a third melody to the song. Luisa is also asking her daughter what she sees in the American. Finally, all four parts sing in unison.
SCENE EIGHT John Hawthorne arrives at Helena’s apartment to meet her mother Luisa
“Not a problem” John Hawthorne assures Luisa his intentions are sincere. John and Helena leave for the Pinnacle Restaurant, a posh upper-class restaurant near the Copacabana beach. Luisa asks that her baby be brought back home safety. (scene fades)
In a seedy alleyway, Uncle Miguel and one of Tamanero’s enforcers give a paper bag to Waterbug, and instructs him to meet his contact at the Copacabana Beach at 11:00pm. Waterbug is somewhat nervous but still talks a big game.

Uncle Miguel is seedy and gang members are tough and ruthless.

SCENE TEN“What did you Make Today?” The upper class patrons all self-congratulate themselves on how utterly wonderful life is while John and Helena arrive at the lobby.
SCENE ELEVEN“Dream” Tableside, overlooking the beaches and mountains of Rio, with Christ the Redeemer atop the Corcovado in clear viewJohn and Helena relay their life’s stories. They find that they have similar values and would like to help the world if they only knew how.
“Better be Ready”
Out on Copacabana Beach at 11:00p.m.
Miguel hands the bag to Waterbug and points out his contact to him. Miguel is a coward and slips away. The enforcer is a slimy drug addict, with certain violent tendencies. He is carrying a semi-automatic gun. He tells Waterbug to watch out for cops and to carefully switch his white bag with the contact on the beach. His bag contains the cocaine, the other bag has the money. As Waterbug is switching bags, John and Helena are walking out of the restaurant onto the Copacabana Beach strip. John thinks Waterbug is switching the bags to steal them, and creates a scene, calling beach police to the scene. Police catch the contact, who is recognized to be Tamanero’s nephew. The gang enforcer, who has been watching from a concealed position tries to free the contact, and regain the bags of money and cocaine. Gunshots commence and in the battle, the nephew is shot, a policeman is killed, the gang enforcer is wounded and escapes. Waterbug realizes that this is not the life for him, and pleas with Helena to take him away, and John and Helena flee together with him. They decide to split, with Helena taking Waterbug back to her apartment, while John runs back to his hotel. She gives him a big kiss before parting. What none of them are thinking at the time is that Waterbug still is holding on to the white bag with all the money, worth well over $50,000.
“Rio John laments about the mysteries of Rio, as Act One concludes and the scene fades. John walks back into the hotel to answer more questions with the police. A porter of the hotel, who turns out to be the Old Man, closes the doors to the hotel, as the lights fade.
SCENE ONE The curtain opens with a mist. On stage is Dona Marta Hill—Tamanero’s headquarters, a grizzly area. The Old Man provides a commentary from on a roof top of a favela shanty.
“Mine” At Tamanero’s hideaway, the wounded enforcer reports that an American disrupted the drug exchange. Tamanero is mad that his second cousin was shot, but incensed about his money being lost. He finds that the police have the drugs, but nearly kills the enforcer when he hears that Waterbug ran off with the money. Uncle Miguel turns on his nephew Waterbug. Tamanero grabs his Lieutenant and orders that if Waterbug, the girl, or the American are found, that he be told immediately. Once they recover his money, all should be shot on site. As they all scurry, he sings to the Audience.Tamanero is likened to the devil.
SCENE TWO“Twist of Fate” Helena’s apartment kitchenLuisa is scurrying to get read for work. Helena enters from the bedroom. She is getting leaving to check on John to see that he is all right. After some interesting questions from Luisa and even more interesting answers from Helena, Waterbug shuffles in. After Luisa goes ballistic, claiming she can’t afford what she has. Waterbug shows them the money and they are shocked. (blackout)
SCENE THREE“Service Reprise” In the Rio Park lobbyThe hotel workers are buzzing with rumors about the shots heard outside the hotel last night. A maid interjects, “probably over money”. Conversation shifts about Daniel Ribeiro. “Maybe he was the happy recipient of the bullet”. There is some “Service with a Smile” dialog, pimping DR. As they laugh, Ribeiro enters. They clam up–last to clam up of course is the ever naive Roberto Sanna. As Ribeiro commences to lecture everyone on “Service with a Smile” and Sucking up, John Hawthorne enters the lobby. Daniel Ribeiro is caught in an embarrassing situation as well. He asks John Hawthorne if he heard any shots, and he lies, saying “No”. He then comments that Rio is nothing but crime. Roberto Sanna takes his comments to heart, and escorts him outside to show him another side of RIO.
SCENE FOUR“Cruisin’”


“Never the Same”

Beach scene on the strip.All the muscle men and gorgeous women parade on the strip. John Hawthorne takes it all in, not totally impressed.

Continued Beach Scene

John is observing all the people on Copacabana Beach, who do not appeal to him as does Helena. He walks further down along the beach. Luisa arrives at the hotel entrance, and is not interested in anyone but John. Eventually, they find each other and again embrace in a serious kiss. As the two of them enter the hotel (presumably to go back to John’s room, John is spotted by Tamanero’s Enforcer, who is with his Lieutenant. They leave to go back to Tamanero to report the news.

“Mound of Plenty”
At Helena’s apartment.
Luisa is tempted on what to do about Waterbug’s new-found money. Luisa and Waterbug exchange ideas on values, dreams, and address what to do about the money. Luisa insists it was gotten through the wrong means. In the midst of their argument Waterbug breaks into tears running from their apartment into the streets. Luisa catches up to him and consoles him that life is bittersweet for us all. She does pledge not to let the system fail him. Her motherly ties to him are greatly strengthened.
“Bittersweet” Luisa comforts Waterbug and they bond. She laments over his plight.
SCENE SEVEN Dona Marta Hill–known to residents as Santa Marta
“Mine — reprise” The Lieutenant reports back to Tamanero that the American is staying at the Rio Park Hotel. He tells the Lieutenant to go to the hotel to find out where the girl lives. Lieutenant Marcello says that he has a good informant at the hotel. He promises the Lieutenant that they will ambush the American, and his girlfriend and Waterbug that evening at the hotel.
“The Gang” Police captain Ernesto Carvalho is monitoring the conversation inside Dona Marta Hill, and relishes the chance to catch Tamanero outside of his strong hold, which has 12,000 residents and countless weapons. His Sergeant says they have a good informant at the hotel. The police will be at the hotel at night as well. It is revealed that Carvalho became a cop after his brother mistakenly joined the gang and was ordered killed by Tamanero when he tried to leave. Carvalho vows revenge.
SCENE TEN Lobby Scene
“Separate Stories” John Hawthorne describes to Roberto his situation and plans with Helena. He plans to take her to the Carnival and then tell her he loves her. He telephones Helena and makes plans to meet her at night for the Carnival party on Copacabana beach.The spot light dims and another light focuses on Daniel Ribeiro, who was eaves dropping on John and Helena’s conversation. The music changes to both military drum beats and evil music, as Ribeiro calls Tamanero to tell him that the American and the girl will be at the Carnival at 8:00PM that night. He asks for “payment as usual.” He then calls Captain Carvalho to tell him that Tamanero will be coming out of hiding, and demands three times the normal payment.
“What did you Make Today–reprise” On the Rio streets Waterbug and Luisa run into his two street buddies, who quiz him on how his life of crime was progressing. He tries to tell them that he plans to go back to school, but they mock him, until he shows them how much money he has. Luisa cuts in that they are late for the church. The two boys are dumb founded as WB and Luisa offer them a chance for school and boarding with her gift to the church.
The two street boys vacillate but quickly take them up on their offer.
Song ends with “corny” church bells chiming.
SCENE TWELVE In the Catholic Church
“Father” Luisa and Waterbug meet with a Priest who is grateful for their donation. She begs that Waterbug and his friends be admitted into the Church school and dormitory to save them from the streets.
“You must do the Right Thing” The Priest consoles Luisa and then admits the children into his school. As the evening is approaching, Waterbug offers to take Luisa to the Carnival party on the street. They have become fast friends
The Old Man blows the whistle from Corcovado in the audience to start the party.
“Carnival” A grand street party ensues, prior to John and Helena arriving. All characters begin to arrive, including Tamanero and his men, and Carvalho and his men. Because of the costumes, it is hard for any character to recognize each other. Luisa and Waterbug dance at the Carnival.
“Forevermore” John takes Helena near his hotel, along the beach, and tells her of his love for her.
“Better be Ready– reprise” Tamanero moves in with his henchmen on John Hawthorne and Helena. He wants his money. Hawthorne does not know what he means. Helena stands up to Tamanero, and tells him the money is now with God. Carvalho and his police move in on Tamanero. After trying to bribe Carvalho, Tamanero learns that there is a “moment of truth”, because Carvalho seeks to avenge the loss of his brother. To try to protect himself, Tamanero grabs Helena as hostage and moves toward an alley way. Waterbug and Luisa show up at the end to witness the horror. Helena bites Tamanero’s arm, and briefly breaks free. Carvalho shoots Tamanero, who falls. Simultaneously, the Enforcer shoots and wounds Carvalho, Carvalho’s Sergeant kills the Enforcer, and another officer kills the gang’s Lieutenant Marcello. As the smoke clears, Helena looks at John, calls out to him as she runs toward
him. In a last gasp of breath, Tamanero whispers, “The girl dies” and fires a single shot, mortally wounding Helena, who falls into John’s arms.
SCENE FIFTEEN Shocked characters–hotel staff, as well as Luisa and Waterbug converge on the tragic scene.
“Can you hear me now” John holds Helena as she fades away. He prays to God for guidance on what to do.
Starts with guitar, becomes choral–organ, and segues to:
“What about the Children of Today? — Reprise The Old Man who symbolizes society suggests that he consider helping the Children in his world–that he can make a difference. …..Fade
SCENE SIXTEEN At the Rio International Airport
“Rio — Reprise” John Hawthorne is checking his bags to leave for home. He is comforted by Luisa, who has decided to “adopt” Waterbug. She gives him a picture of Helena. Carvalho vows to watch over Luisa and Waterbug. John vows to go back home to his politician father to try to make a difference at home. In the end, John Hawthorne exits down the same tarmac from which he entered, only this time a wiser, more awakened individual to the task ahead. As he leaves the jet way, the janitor cleans up the airport and the lights fade. It turns out the janitor is the Old Man who waves good-bye to the audience as he works the broom off stage.

Music and Lyrics by Craig Wilson
Plot Summary

Rio is the story of a relatively naive American who travels to Rio for the Carnival celebrations. He falls for a sweet girl who is a reception host at the airport. In his few days in Rio, he learns about the separation of classes, the power of the drug lords, and the potential, which exists in every child when given opportunities and love.vFinally, In the midst of a tragedy, the American finally realizes his mission in life as he returns home.

Main Characters (16 solo roles):

John Hawthorne:
Kevin Vortmann as Joa-ao Hawthorne
A thirty year old son of a wealthy American politician. He represents the naivete of America. C-1 – C1 Michael Crawford type voice.
Helena Alexandra de Barcelos:
(eh-lah-na al-lesh-andra dee Barceloos)
Jenny Powers
A bright, pretty girl in her twenties, working as an airport welcome host to support her schooling at night. She is a Christ-like heroine. A-1 – G1 Pop
Daniel Ribeiro (Heebaheero)
Greg Brown
The autocratic Executive Assistant Manager who sucks up to all potentially big tipping business men. He is comic relief, a “little Napoleon” with a deep voice. Deep Baritone or high bass—G-2 – G
Roberto Sanna (Sanya)
Chris Yonan
A newly recruited, fumbling bell hop, a bit like “Flounder” from Animal House. More comic relief. Comical D-1 – G
Peter Wesolowski
A tough but likeable 14-year old kid from the slums, who wants recognition in some way or another. He is an “Artful Dodger” type character, endearing although tragically misguided, showing that people change when given a chance. F-1 – C1
Old Man
Oron Stenesch
An old resident of Rio represents the conscience of society. (Also serves as airport poor) A-2 – G1 Old, Expressive
Luisa Campos de Barcelos
Emily Price
The typical worrying mother, who raised her only child Suzanna who was born out of wedlock. She works hard
to protect her daughter to let her grow. E-1 – E1. Fontaine voice
Tamanero (Tamaneero)
Raymond Siffel
Tamanero is the drug lord of Dona Marta Hill, who is symbolic of the devil. G#-1 – Bb, Deep, Full Baritone with high range
Matt Amador
A crude “manager” for Tamanero’s drug trafficking. (Also serves as airport poor)D-1 – G, Rough, unique
Matt Carlson
Tamanero’s senior officer. (Also serves as airport poor and gang member #1) D-1 – G
Uncle Miguel
Michael Witwer
A “CYA” timid man who is a hero in Waterbug’s eyes.
Captain Ernesto Carvalho
(eh-nesto car-vai-u)
Andrew Hotz
The district officer who hunts Tamanero. He can not be “bought” because he seeks to revenge the death of his brother at Tamanero’s hands. C-1-F Talks Rough (Also serves as airport poor )
Dan Brinz
Symbolizes the role of religion in society. (also serves as airport poor and gang member #2) D-1 – G Sweet Tenor
Boy One
Daniel Gonshorek
Boy Soprano
Boy Two
Brian Colbert
Low Boy Soprano
Boy Three
Tim Koll
Boy Tenor

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