Brazil meets America

Juliana Pedroso and Matt Gurren talk to us about MWG and their exciting new venture: a Brazilian-American show created to shed light on some of the realities of Brazil.


Q: You are currently working on a new Musical. What inspired you to create this new Brazilian-American show?

JULIANA: I originally had the idea some years ago when I was living and studying in New York. The story is completely original and unlike anything that has ever been done before.

MATT: When non-Brazilians think of Brazil, most things that come to mind are “Carnaval”, the music and gorgeous beaches with beautiful people. There is so much more to the country and culture than that. As one of the songs in our musical suggests (“You Don’t Know Your Country”), there is a lot more going on in Brazil than what first meets the eye that needs to be brought to light.

JULIANA: There is a lot wrong with our society nowadays because only a small group of people can have an active voice. The inability to do anything to “change” the world was the biggest inspiration for this book. As creators, we put our frustrations and disappointments into art. That’s how we communicate. While most depictions of Brazil’s favelas (which are the slums where our story takes place), are negative, as popularized by famous films like “City of God”, we wanted to create a show that focuses not only on the daily hardships, but shed light on the beauty of the people and the particularities of the community. Themes in the show also include love, ignorance, corruption, social and class barriers and the need for change.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your company MWG Productions?

MATT: MWG Productions, LLC is dedicated to producing and assisting others to create new, innovative theatrical and film productions. MWG provides artistic and technical services for companies and individuals in theater, film and entertainment. The company is also actively working on developing and producing several new musical and theatrical projects, including Brasil – A New Musical and What Do Critics Know?

Q: The Musical is also collaborating with Nanny Assis. What was this experience like for you?

JULIANA: I was trying to create a musical in the American format, that takes place in Brazil. I knew from the beginning that this project needed a collaboration between an American and a Brazilian in both the book and music. When Matt and I started working on the book of the musical, Matthew was also eager to work on the score and lyrics.  However, we both felt that it would be beneficial for the project to have a Brazilian collaborator who understood the musical styles of my country. A friend of mine recommended Nanny Assis to us. Nanny is a celebrated Brazilian musician, singer and percussionist and has been living in the United States for over 20 years. When we met with Nanny, I told him about our musical, we sent him some scenes and he instantly connected with the project and wanted to be involved.

MATT: It has been great working with Nanny. If I wrote the music alone, it would be somewhat “imitative” of Brazilian music. Nanny is Brazilian and grew up playing and specializing in Brazilian music, it really gives the score authenticity. Nanny knows all about the intricacies and origins of the various Brazilian styles. For instance, one of our characters comes from Northern Brazil and we wrote a song that is true to that region, which is very different from Funk Carioca and Samba. The exciting challenge is taking that distinct musical style and fusing it with the American music and writing lyrics in English that fit with it.

JULIANA: Matt and Nanny have been doing a great job collaborating on the music. It’s a perfect blend of Brazilian music with Contemporary-American Musical Theater.

Q: Do you feel, Juliana, with you being from Brasil and Matt, with you being from America, that this influences the type of work that you produce: as an international partnership? If so, in what way?

JULIANA: Absolutely. It is a project that involves our two countries coming together to tell a powerful story. This might also be the first American-Brazilian collaboration on the creation of a new musical. That’s what is unique about it.

MATT: One of the things I discovered when I first started working with Juliana, was that Brazil is one of the largest theatrical markets in the world. If there is a hit on Broadway, such as “Les Mis” or “Wicked”, it goes to Rio and São Paulo. Brazilian tourists account for a large percentage of Broadway ticket sales. An international partnership was bound to come about. Of course only time can tell, but hopefully our musical opens the door for more international partnerships, ushering in new musicals from countries all over the world.

Q: If you had one hope/ goal for the work that you do together what would it be?

MATT: My hope is that our work is seen by as many people as possible. I think art and storytelling gives us the power to inspire, move, educate and entertain others. This show in particular tackles a lot of important themes and is reflective of what’s going on in the world today. I hope our words inspire others to see our world in a different way. I hope our story fights against conservative politics and views that seek to widen the gap between people, rather than bridge it.

JULIANA: I hope our story helps others see that the world is one great community, and we need to come together in spite of our differences, and bring about change to a world that can be good, united and beautiful.

Q: When and where can audiences see the Musical?

JULIANA: The show is currently under development. Our first staged reading will happen this coming Fall/Winter. We hope to have our first full production in 2018 – 2019. We still don’t know if it’s going to be in NY or in Brazil. Everything at the moment is in negotiations. However,  people can follow us on Social Media and get little snippets from the show, table reads, photo shoots, etc. When we have our demo recording in the Summer, people will be able to hear some of the music which we are very excited to share.

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