An overcast sky and the threat of heavy rains didn't stop fans from crowding Rumsey Playfield to see Brazilian pop star Maria Rita, who is currently touring in support of her new CD, Samba Meu (Warner Latina). Before the concert, she told us over an e-mail interview that she was looking forward to playing in Central Park.  “I remember the excitement that my friends and I had whenever we went to a concert in Central Park, and now I am playing there,” she explained. “I feel like a child – my friends will all be there, it will be crazy... I am not ashamed to say that I am extremely excited about it.”
Maria Rita began singing the title song from the new disc from backstage, and as she appeared she got a very warm welcome from her fans. Backed by a 6-piece band, she showcased mostly material from the new disc intertwined with some numbers from her previous works.
One tune that was very well received was “Pagu,” a Rita Lee/Zelia Duncan composition that was pretty obscure until Maria Rita reinvented it for her debut disc, giving it a bluesy feel. Other crowd pleasers were Milton Nascimento's “Encontros e Despedidas” and “Caminho das Aguas,” both of which were augmented in a live setting by the presence of percussion and guitar (she was accompanied by a piano trio in the studio).
Rita's voice was in a great shape, and she commanded the stage as well, constantly interacting with fans, who in turn joined in on practically every number. She closed the set with a cover of Alcione's classic  “Nao Deixe o Samba Morrer” and “O Homem Falou,” a tune from Samba Meu.”
The concert was followed by a screening of Walter Lima Jr.'s Os Desafinados, a touching film that follows the career of a fictional bossa-nova era band that comes to the U.S. to try to make it big in the music business while Brazil goes through the military dictatorship in the mid