- Last Updated: 11:32 PM, July 13, 2012
- Posted: 10:47 PM, July 13, 2012
Theatre at St. Clement’s, 423 W. 46th St.; 212-352-3101. Through Wednesday.
Like the teeming slums that are its setting, the new musical “Rio” is seriously overcrowded. This re-imagining of “Oliver Twist,” set in modern-day Brazil, is so stuffed with incidents, characters, songs and confusing action that its simple melodramatic tale gets lost in the process.
Written by the Canadians Mitch Magonet and Joey Miller and presented by the New York Musical Theatre Festival, the show begins with 12-year-old Pipio (Nicholas Daniel Gonzalez) running away from an orphanage to find his mother. He winds up in the crime-ridden favelas of Rio de Janeiro, where he promptly witnesses a massacre of street children by a crooked police captain (Lelund Durond), a plot element inspired by a real-life incident.
A gang of ruffians bring him to a local druglord, Samson (the charismatic, strong-voiced Nik Walker), who assigns Pipio to the care of his gorgeous girlfriend, Neves (Tanesha Ross). The two form a close bond, while Samson is preoccupied with making sure that his float wins at Carnival — it has something to do with loading it with drugs and then smuggling it out of the country — and fending off his professional and romantic rival, Pantera (J. Manuel Santos).
A game cast of 12 plays dozens of characters, including various gods and goddesses, priests and nuns, and a flamboyant transsexual. The ballad-heavy score sounds fairly generic, and even with two percussionists onboard, the accompanying five-piece band lacks true Brazilian flavor.
The action culminates, naturally, at Carnival, which at least gives the attractive, scantily dressed actors a chance to display their well-toned bodies. But their bare skin pretty much gives off the only heat in this ambitious but unwieldy musical.