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Bye-Bye, Broadway : Singer Eliana Estevao of "Oba Oba '93" is returning to nightclubs to spread the word about Latin music.

October 16, 1992|ZAN STEWART | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Zan Stewart writes regularly about music for The Times

Eliana Estevao isn't much for telephone interviews, particularly when they're conducted in English rather than her native Portuguese.

"I am veerrry nervous," she said with a chuckle of disquiet last week, when she spoke to a reporter by phone from her New York City hotel room.

But later in the conversation, Estevao, who begins a six-week stand of Friday and Saturday night performances tonight at La Ve Lee in Studio City, talked about what she is comfortable doing: singing.

"I can sing how I want. Loud, less, and everything I can do," she said, speaking English haltingly, yet sometimes quite smoothly, in a very musical voice. "What I want with my voice, I do."

Estevao isn't the only one who feels this way about her singing. New York Times reviewer Jack Anderson recently said Estevao--performing in "Oba Oba '93"--"made her voice ring out like a trumpet in jubilant passages and sigh like a cello during more intimate musical moments."

So why is this talented, 40-year-old singer abandoning Broadway for a stint at a nightclub in the San Fernando Valley?

"I have specific work," she began, referring to her desire to "bring to America more than Brazilian jazz, to bring the music of composers such as Joao Bosco, Ivan Lins, Milton Nascimento, Gilberto Gil and Edu Lobo. "America must know more about them, more about these people than just Antonio Carlos Jobim. So I like to continue my work, I like to follow my career."

"Oba Oba" is very important, Estevao said, and so is Broadway. But she appeared on Broadway in the music and dance revue for three months in 1987--she first joined the troupe in 1984--and her voice remains on the recorded soundtrack that is used in some of the larger scenes. Now it's time for what she wants.

"I decide it's very important for me an album," she said. She plans to record in December or January for the Los Angeles-based Triloka label. "I am living for that. I am living for singing in a small place and recording. I am waiting 30 years," she said, laughing. "It's an opportunity I cannot lose."

Estevao, a native of Sao Paulo who sang on Brazilian radio at the age of 5 and made her professional debut in the Brazilian version of "Jesus Christ Superstar" in 1972, said also that she's not that unhappy to exchange the large Marquis Theatre, where she was appearing in "Oba Oba '93," for the intimate La Ve Lee.

"I like small rooms because in 'Oba Oba,' I spend a lot of energy, I sing with a lot of energy," she said. "Now I need a little quiet. I want to spend my energy with not too many persons. The communication is very important. I like to see the face of the crowd, of the public. In a big place, I can't do that."

Estevao sang in clubs in Sao Paulo from 1977 to 1981, following other performances in musical theater, both as vocalist and actress. "I learned a lot, singing in clubs," she said. "It's an experience every singer must have, singing in the night."

Then, in 1984, when she was in Italy performing with the renowned Brazilian guitarist and songwriter Toquinho, Estevao was asked to join "Oba Oba." She toured with the show throughout Europe, in Israel and, in Brazil. In 1988, she came with the production to America for the first time.

"We played Las Vegas for 11 months at the Aladdin casino," Estevao said. "I loved Las Vegas. I call it my city. I bought my first car there, a Ford Futura, which I still have. The success of the show was great there."

Estevao doesn't know how long she plans to remain in Los Angeles, but while she's here, she'll continue to focus on her career.

"The music is first place with me," she said.

WHERE AND WHEN

Location: La Ve Lee, 12514 Ventura Blvd., Studio City.

Hours: 9 and 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, through Nov. 21.

Price: Cover charge, $10, two-drink minimum.

Call: (818) 980-8158.

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