A hit with critics and audiences, the musical comedy Silvio Santos Vem Aí! (Silvio Santos is Coming!), the work that marked Paris Cultural’s debut, is coming to Rio de Janeiro for four more performances at the Riachuelo Theatre, on 15 and 22 October, at 3pm and 8pm. During the same period, another of the production company’s great successes, the musical Ney Matogrosso – Homem com H (with performances from 12 to 21 October), will also be on stage. The play retraces a period from the honoured actor’s childhood, when he was a street vendor in Rio de Janeiro, to the 1990s, shortly after the consolidation of SBT. The cast is made up of various actors, most notably Velson D’Souza, who takes on the challenge of playing Silvio Santos.
How did the idea of making a musical about Silvio Santos come about?
The idea of making a musical about Silvio came about when my partner, Márcio Fracaroli, told me that he had acquired the rights to Silvio Santos’ biography, written by Maísa Batista, to make a feature film. So I asked him if he had the rights for us to do it in the theatre, and he said yes. Then I started thinking about how crazy it would be. As always, I watched a lot of Silvio Santos programmes and SBT in my childhood. I already had in my head what this musical fun would be like, with well-known songs that marked the era of our generation, the 80s. I knew it would be a very funny musical and, without a doubt, a musical comedy, because Silvio Santos has always been very debauched and had this characteristic of joking in his programmes. From the start, I knew it would be a musical comedy.
How was the casting process for the production? I’d also like to ask you about the choice of the lead actor.
We held an audition to choose the cast, in fact it was a workshop. We didn’t open auditions for actors to sign up; we invited actors we had already worked with and who we knew for their comedic flair. I always told Fernanda, who also directed the musical, that I wanted actors who were comedians first and foremost, and then who could sing and dance. The main focus was on acting and the ability to bring humour to the characters. It was a week-long workshop, and from there we selected the actors who make up the cast.
As for Velson, he had already worked with me on several plays over many years. He always joked about imitating Silvio Santos in our warm-up sessions before we went on stage. I already knew he had the ability to play Silvio. Velson sings very well, and he creates a very humanised Silvio Santos, not a caricature like so many do. As he was living abroad, we brought him from Los Angeles so that he could take part in the auditions and so that my cast mates could get to know him too. He matured a lot during his time studying abroad, and when he arrived and auditioned with us, we realised he was the perfect choice.
Silvio Santos is 92 years old and has been through a lot in his life, both personally and professionally. I’d like to know what the musical has been working on and why it was chosen?
The musical begins at a freshman show in the 1980s, a time when Silvio Santos had a problem with his vocal cords. He had a tumour on his vocal cords and had to be taken off screen to have surgery. The doctors needed to determine whether the tumour was malignant or benign. So we decided to create a joke, including a reference to jazz and the film in which Silvio takes an anaesthetic and goes into a delirium.
The whole show takes place inside Silvio Santos’ head, mixing memories and daydreams. We are not obliged to faithfully portray every event in his life. The story includes Silvio Santos’ childhood, based on his biographies and stories, from his childhood in Lapa with his family to the moment he obtained the concession to create SBT. This is the time frame, and the musical ends when Silvio Santos’ surgery is successful and he returns to SBT to continue with his programmes.
The production features important names from Brazilian culture and television in general, such as Elke Maravilha, Wagner Montes, Gugu Liberato and others. How are they inserted into the main plot?
We portrayed these characters as they were in Silvio Santos’ history, but with touches of creativity and moments of reverie. For example, we have a scene with Elke Maravilha where she invades Silvio Santos’ dream to announce that she will be part of the judging panel in the future, as if it were a prophecy of what is to come. This is done within the joke, considering that our cut of the story ends before then.
As for Wagner Montes, he was originally played by Diego Montez in the first season we did in São Paulo at the rooftop. However, Diego took on other professional commitments, and we thought it wouldn’t make sense to have another actor playing Wagner. So, at the moment, it’s Sérgio Malandro who’s on the team, and Wagner Montes only appears when Diego is present.
Were the Abravanel family aware of the musical, and if so, what did they think of the tribute?
At the beginning of the project, when we decided to make the musical, Paris Filmes had already acquired the rights to the biography of Silvio Santos written by Marcia Batista for a feature film. We went to SBT and met Silvio Santos during a break in his programme. We told him about the musical, and he was very happy with the idea. He even made a joke, saying that he doesn’t sing in the musical, but he has made a lot of people sing through his programme. He supported us from the start and gave us great visibility at the time. He even wrote the title of the musical in his own handwriting.
When the musical premiered, we were in the middle of a pandemic, and Silvio had COVID-19. However, he was eager to see it and asked SBT to authorise the filming of the musical. The SBT team recorded the performance, and Silvio and his family watched it together at home. They loved the show, and the Abraçavanel family was very supportive of our project.
All of Silvio Santos’ daughters and sons have seen the musical, some more than once. They always loved Velson’s interpretation. SBT has also been very popular during the seasons in which we’ve presented the musical, and they’ve all been thrilled, because it’s their story that we’re portraying. The Abraçavanel family is very involved and satisfied with the project.
The production is coming to Rio de Janeiro for a short season, but cities like São Paulo, Natal and Fortaleza have already had the opportunity to see the show. What can audiences in Rio expect from the biography of Silvio Santos?
The story of Silvio Santos is undoubtedly the story of Brazilian television. You can’t talk about the history of TV in Brazil without mentioning Silvio Santos. He is the central and most important figure in Brazilian television. Of course, we also have Roberto Marinho, but he didn’t have a presence in front of the cameras.
Silvio Santos has always been in front of the cameras, and is even listed in Guinness as the longest-serving presenter in human history. There is no one who has remained on air for as long as he has.
The story of Silvio Santos is the story of Brazilian television, the story of Brazil and the story of our communication. Many people who may initially hesitate or not understand the proposal of a musical about Silvio Santos end up being enchanted, because they feel represented. Those who lived through that era of Brazilian television get emotional watching these iconic characters, and memories of childhood and Sundays with Silvio Santos at home come flooding back. It’s undoubtedly an important part of our dramaturgy and the history of Brazil.