Murilo Rosa decided to celebrate his fiftieth birthday a year late, planting a banana tree and walking under a tightrope—literally. At least that’s what he’s been doing for the past month, Monday through Saturday, as he prepares for his return to the stage after a year and a half in prison because of the Covid-19 epidemic.
The acrobatics are part of the rehearsal marathon for the premiere of the musical “Barnum: O Rei do Show”, a Broadway show that arrives at Teatro Opus, in São Paulo, on October 1st this year. Murilo, who plays showman Phineas Taylor Barnum (1810-1891), leads a large troupe of 23 actors and seven orchestra musicians.
The musical, inspired by true events, tells the story of the founder of a renowned 19th-century US circus that featured exotic animals and figures such as the bearded woman and Siamese acrobats. Considered the father of modern showbusiness, Barnum was played by Hugh Jackman in theaters in 2017.
“He is a dream character, who imprints all the difficulties that an actor can have. He carries in his interpretation light moments, deep moments, moments of joy. It’s also a comedy. And, besides that, you have brilliant choreographies and beautiful music, which are originals from the Broadway musical”, says Murilo Rosa to the column. “A full plate for those who want to leave their comfort zone and discover new places.”
The Brazilian version of “O Rei do Show” is directed by Gustavo Barchilon, adapted by Cláudio Botelho and musical direction by Thiago Gimenes. Announced in 2019, it was supposed to go public last year. “When I received the invitation back there, the challenge came to me, to do something different, but now the mission is different. We know that the viewer is thirsty for joy. It’s a two-way street: welcoming this audience is our gift, and [o espetáculo é um presente para] this audience that is wanting to dream.”
On Sundays, when he is off theatre, Murilo has dedicated himself to finishing the show “The Bridge”, which will arrive in Brazil on HBO Max after passing through England and Spain. The attraction will mark the actor’s debut as a reality show host. “It’s crazy. You have to sleep well, ok?”, he says, between laughs, about his newest routine.
“The Bridge” is a reality show that takes place in the Atlantic Forest and aims to build a 300 meter long bridge. Once completed, the platform will allow participants to cross to an island that houses a chest with the award. “This bridge is actually a metaphor for the bridge you have to build in your life. Ali is a game of union, not competition”, explains Murilo. “It’s just that they discover this throughout the game. And I’m the one putting all these puzzles together.”
At 51, the actor says it’s hard to take stock of his last few months. “I think this pandemic was filled with many phases,” he says. “It was a difficult year for everyone, but at the same time, I feel unfair saying that it was extremely difficult for me, knowing that for most of the Brazilian population it was even more.”
“We helped those who could help, but it was tragic, in view of so many people who left. Many friendly people, professional colleagues who died, family members. We are still living in these situations, so every now and then we are surprised by infected people who have caught the virus. It hasn’t passed yet.”
“I lived incredible moments with the family, and other difficult ones. Being together, which was nice, everyone watching a little movie together there”, he says about living with his wife, model Fernanda Tavares, and their children Lucas and Artur. “But there were also moments when you saw a boy in the bedroom taking online classes, the other in the classroom with Fernanda, and then the boy doesn’t want any more online classes, it becomes a mess.”
“We adopted a little dog in the middle of it all, Claire, and found out that the dog was messier than the boys,” he says, laughing. “It was small and it grew. It gnawed something it couldn’t gnaw, that beautiful imported chair, you like it, you know?”
In August of this year, Murilo left Globo after 22 years and from acting in hits such as “A Casa das Sete Mulheres” (2003), “America” (2005), “Salve Jorge” (2012) and “Salve-se Quem Can” (2020).
“It was a super beautiful and healthy transition, from a company that always treated me well to another company that is welcoming me with a huge heart. [HBO Max]. I couldn’t be more grateful for everything that happened.”
“We are also experiencing a very interesting moment, which is the arrival of these large platforms, these multinationals. I think it’s a great time to walk a tightrope”, he jokes. The actor goes beyond his personal experience and says he believes in the ability of new streaming platforms to catapult national cinema.
“Brazil has absolutely brilliant films that didn’t have a thousand people in the cinema. If you have a platform today that takes this product and says: ‘Watch me here whenever you want’, hey, that’s great”, he goes on. “You have it now amplified by multinational platforms, which basically need the subscriber and quality products.”
He cites as an example the possibility of making a documentary about the show “Barnum: O Rei do Show”, a project that is already beginning to be thought of and that could eventually be offered to an interested streaming platform.
“We have to believe in the national product. Brazil is a country with more than 200 million inhabitants, this is a power for the world. Our cinema is of quality. I’m doing a Broadway musical, it’s great to have this challenge, but it’s also great for you to do a ‘Se Run o Bicho Pega, Se Ficar o Bicho Come’, by Ferreira Gullar and Vianinha [Oduvaldo Vianna Filho].”
“But it’s no use saying, ‘Oh, comedy is working.’ Everything can work, you just have to believe, as a director. Brazilian cinema had the cangaço era there —it was just cangaço films—, the era of favela films —only favela films—, then there’s the era of comedies —it’s just… Can’t you have everything at the same time? A good drama, a good comedy, a good horror movie for us to experience a little bit of everything?”
Murilo Rosa is cautious when talking about the country’s political scenario. “My father asked me not to talk about politics. I posted a thing these days, I put it to break, then my father [disse]: ‘My son, please don’t post this anymore’ —my father is 78 years old—, ‘there are a lot of people who like you’. I said: ‘Dad, I need it. There’s no way not to talk. The person who doesn’t speak today seems to accept it’. [É] Cute, he gets worried”, he says.
“The government really missed a great opportunity, in the face of a pandemic, to do something great. And this has no turning back, this has gone down in history, this is marked. We had the opportunity to learn from other countries. I was there, I just had to do my homework. Why was it so absurd here?”, says Murilo. “We could have gone through this with a lot less people dying, helping each other.”
The actor does not name names, but he claims that Brazil today lacks great options to command him. On the other hand, he says he is confident with the emergence of a representative of the so-called “third way”, who opposes both Jair Bolsonaro (no party) and Lula (PT). “I hope that in our country we find a point of balance, of union, otherwise it won’t lead to anything.”
“And I want us to leave this place we are now. Let us go through this, find everyone vaccinated and enlightened. If you have the third, fourth, fifth dose of the vaccine and you have to take it, we will all take it.”