Jazz at Lincoln Center presented four special performances of “The most amazing story ever sung,” the Colombian musical that sold out every night in Bogotá for the last two years. September 21st, 22nd & 23rd, 2012.
This is a story of Jesus, but it is not a religious telling of the story. This is the story of a man and how a man’s capacity for love can touch many people. It is told by 85 performers (as young as 7 years old), with 600 costumes, an 18 musician orchestra, performing over two hours of original music combining Latin, Jazz, Gospel, Rock and a large choir with five tons of sets crafted by Colombian artisans and stunning choreography. The Egyptians dancing Salsa is unforgettable.
We see a lot of musicals on Broadway, but this is not a typical Broadway show. The Misi Producciones company was started by musical director María Isabel Murillo 25 years ago with just five people as a school for the performing arts. More than 600 artists are now enrolled and the school has graduated over 20,000 students.
The company has produced over 25 shows such as Grease, Annie, JC Superstar and the first Spanish version of “West Side Story” authorized by the author Arthur Laurents. That production inspired Mr. Laurents to write his own bilingual version which appeared on Broadway.
Like the Chinese opera, students start as children and many of them stay with the company for 15 or 20 years, their entire performing lives. Felipe Salazar, who plays the role of Jesus, started at Misi when he was 4 years old.
The show is directed and choreographed by an American, Rob Barron, who was discovered as a youngster by Lucille Ball. He has been producing musicals with Misi since 1985.
So “The most amazing story ever sung” is not a typical Broadway production that comes together for a year or two, it is really a musical theatre family that has worked its way over a generation to the very top of the art.
“New York Latin Culture” interviewed María, Felipe and Rob in Bogotá before they came to New York.
NYLC: When you started, what made you believe you could build a major artistic institution?
MARÍA: I am a dreamer. My head thinks in cartoons. I really did not plan to get where we are today. I just kept going from one thing to another and now I look back and see this huge company. My dream attracted other dreamers and it was all of our passion together that made this happen.
NYLC: What attracted you to work in Colombia?
ROB: Everything here [in Colombia] is a work of the heart, so I come every year to do a few projects.
NYLC: How does playing the role of Jesus affect your life?
FELIPE: I did this first in JC Superstar, but this is a completely different Jesus. The transition between these two shows was very important for me as an artist. The Jesus in this show represents the very essence of humanity, not divinity. The essence of humanity is goodness. It’s a nice feeling to be immersed in goodness.
When I come out of the show, I see the city and the people around me. Day-to-day life is not all good, but playing this character has taught me to respond with love. I am a tap teacher and this experience has completely changed the way I teach my students.
NYLC: How is the New York version different from the Bogotá production?
ROB: We usually have a turntable, but here we have movable platforms so we are changing scenes more. It’s a different show at a higher level.
MARÍA: When the artist looks at a painting after it is finished, he sometimes wishes he had added more color or something different here and there. It’s exciting to get a chance to redo your masterpiece in a more complete and beautiful way.
We are celebrating our 25th anniversary outside Colombia because the country is entering a new stage of development as a modern nation. For years audiences have asked us to take the show outside the country because the world only knows Shakira, Juanes, Botero and Marquez. They don’t know we have a talent for musical theatre.
This is the story of a historical character that everybody knows, but as Colombians we have our own version embellished with our own truths. When Arthur Laurents of “West Side Story” saw our version of his musical in Spanish, the production was so true to the story itself that it inspired him to write his own bilingual version.
So with a team of over 120 from Colombia and 30 more from New York, we bring you the Greatest Story Every Sung or La más grande historia jamás cantada. It is a story told with our own truths and a Latin passion that is beautiful. Thank you New York for inviting us to share our passion with the world.
In New York, we asked the UN Ambassador from Colombia, Néstor Osoriott the recent head of the UN Security Council, what is the significance of this show coming from Colombia to New York at this time?
H.E. MR. OSORIOTT: The last decade in Colombia has been a wave of struggle to create a modern nation. The work is not finished, but this is the beginning of the catharsis, the relief. With the second largest economy in South America, major foreign investment, and many Europeans and Americans choosing to make their homes in Colombia, Colombian people and culture are reaching outside the country to make our contribution to the modern world.