Andrew Lloyd Weber's Production of
A R Rahman's Bombay Dreams
- Backstage with the Playwrights and Filmmakers
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1681 Broadway at 53rd Street
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Manu Narayan, Anisha Nagarajan, Ayesha Dharker, Sriram Ganesan, Tanvir Gopal, Marvin L. Ishmael, Deep Katdare, Neil J. Shastri, Madhur Jaffrey, and Cast
Directed by Steven Pimlott
Music by A R Rahman
Lyrics by Don Black
Book by Meera Syal and Thomas Meehan
Music Director: James Abbott
Additional Arrangements: Christopher Nightingale
Music Coordinator: Michael Keller
Music Supervision: Paul Bogaev
Production Manager: Peter Fulbright
Casting by Tara Rubin Casting
Production Stage Manager: Bonnie L. Becker
Executive Producer: Waxwill Theatrical Division
General Management: The Charlotte Wilcox Company
Marketing: Margery Singer Company
Sponsorship: Rhino Enterprises
Associate Producer: Sudhir Vaishnav
Associate Producer: The Entertainment Partnership
Associate Producers: Alexander Fraser and Ken Denison
Lighting Design: Hugh Vanstone
Sound Design: Mick Potter
Scenery and Costume Design: Mark Thompson
Choreography: Anthony Van Laast and Farah Khan
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
June 9, 2004
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
Ordinarily, a reviewer who actually owns a sari and used to create India dance productions for third grade performers, who were trained in Indian dance by top professional artists, would be totally turned off by this India-light production, replete with a "wet sari" scene (aerobic dancing in a rainbow-effect, giant, onstage geyser) and a parade of iridescent elephants. Yet, this spoof on "Bollywood" films of Bombay, which was originally produced in London, with its exuberant energy and kaleidoscopic mauves, touched with gold, was engaging and transporting. It was so campy that it was charismatic.
With Manu Narayan as Akaash, the egotistic movie fanatic from the slums of Bombay who becomes a star overnight, as a result of a visit from Vikram (Deep Katdare), a shady lawyer, pretending to be a soulful lawyer, who is currently engaged to Priya (Anisha Nagarajan), an independent filmmaker. Sweetie (Sriram Ganesan), a touching eunuch (emasculated men in makeup and saris, who dance for a living), independently helps Akaash gain the attention of Madan (Marvin L. Ishmael), Priya's father and an ambitious Bollywood film producer, as well as the attention of Rani (Ayesha Dharker), a well-proportioned, seductive singer/dancer/actress, who gets a big film role for Akaash in return for his favors and attentions.
Akaash abandons his slum for a crass, lavish lifestyle and turns away from his own family and Sweetie, as well, at his film awards ceremony. The shady lawyer is revealed in even shadier fashion, guns go off, and Akaash comes to his senses. A little boy, Munna (Neil Jay Shastri) is a sudden hero. (I will not reveal the ending, although this is, after all, Bollywood). The classiest character is Shanti (Madhur Jaffrey), Akaash's grandmother, who never gives up on his return home to save his people from the bulldozers and real estate vipers, who are ready to plow away their slum to make way for new-age glitz. I liked the story line and fell for the melodrama.
But, Bombay Dreams is a Broadway musical and a full-cast, dance production. I longed for the familiar sounds of East Indian music and instruments and for the elegant hand and arm movements that are so central to the Indian dance motif. This was, however, like step-dancing without the steps, Indian rock, exotic sounds pumped up with brass and percussion, and the two turbaned musicians in high side boxes, at either side of the top stage, literally bounced in the air, while playing authentic Indian percussive instruments, for a visual effect that matched the electrified, musical gymnastics onstage. This was not Indian dance by any means, but this was Andrew Lloyd Weber on Broadway, and the audience went wild. They apparently did not buy tickets for esoteric exoticism, but rather for a sensational spectacle. One might call this July 4, India-style, with fantasy fireworks of color, sound, water, strobe lights, fog, and pulsating percussion.
So, why did I like this show? The story line of character and redemption was refreshing, the energy was uplifting, the colors of pinks, purples, gold, and blues were nurturing, the dancing was emotionally inspiring, the singing was beautifully entertaining, and the costumes and sets were magic-inducing. Most of the lead characters had lovely voices, with the exception of Akaash, whose adorable personality overcame the void of his vocal straining. In fact, Anisha Nagarajan's solos would have been showstoppers in another ambiance. (Ms. Nagarajan is an award-winning concert pianist, and Madhur Jaffrey [Shanti, the Grandmother] is an award-winning author of cookbooks).
The dance ensemble was excellent in achieving the hard-driven energy with the motif of sideways head movements, disco-style. The male dancers were muscular and riveting. The below-stage orchestra, conducted by James L. Abbott, was at times overpowering, but, then again, Andrew Lloyd Weber is known for maximum sound, and Broadway Theatre, newly refurbished, is enormous and cavernous, requiring extraordinarily expansive acoustics. You won't leave the theatre singing, but you will leave the theatre swiveling.
Tickets for Bombay Dreams can be purchased at www.Telecharge.com.
Ayesha Dharker (center) and company
Photo courtesy of Joan Marcus