Bombay Dreams - New York City

Waxman Wiliams Entertainment and TGA Entertainment present Andrew Lloyd Webber's production of  A R Rahman's Bombay Dreams

I missed "Bombay Dreams" when it premiered at London's Apollo Victoria Theatre in 2002. So, I was excited when the decision came to make its Atlantic transfer to the Broadway Theatre in New York.

The plot revolves around a man who rises above the Bombay slums an untouchable, a member of the lowest social caste in India, to become a star in Bollywood. Along the way he falls in love with a woman of a much higher caste. It becomes a story of love, family roots, fame, movies, betrayal, unrequited love and a convenient love triangle. Sound good? I thought so too.

I came to the theatre expecting to be transported to India. To have my eyes dazzled with the dance, costumes and very distinctive flavors of a Bollywood movie. I've always been fascinated by and yet never have traveled to India. I love the colors, textures, saris, and sounds of the near east. So one of the outlets I have for quenching my travel lust is turning to the movies. I find a Bollywood movie very satisfying and at times humorous in the cultural differences of what we Westerners think a movie is. But it is those very differences that fuel my love for these movies.

So imagine my disappointment upon seeing Andrew Lloyd Webber's production of "Bombay Dreams".  Now it wasn't complete disappointment; the costumes and Scenery design by Mark Thompson were beautiful. And quite possibly a reason in and of themselves to go see this production. There were lots of sparkling and vibrantly colored Saris and rhinestones. An enormous, sculptural junkyard collage, representing a slum, which falls slowly down from the ceiling. A rotating stage, large illuminated statues of Hindu God Ganesh, and the showstopper: a large 30 foot fountain illuminated with multi colored lights, shooting and cascading water, right in the center of the stage. In the middle of the fountain there were dancing girls cavorting around in the water like nymphs. It was most impressive how the entire cast didn't end up on their behinds with all the vigorous dancing going in the water.

The actors and dancers worked hard. It was obvious they gave it their all. This is a show with a lot of music and strenuous choreography. They go through a real workout every time they are onstage, times that by eight performances a week. I imagine they are the most tired cast on Broadway come Sunday night.

The choreography was also impressive. Although Westernized, choreographers Anthony van Laast & Farah Khan added in enough traditional Indian moves that it felt satisfying. The music by A R Rahman. Lyrics by Don Black were catchy; and though I still find myself singing Salome Bombay, I missed more of an ethnic feel to the music. It felt very much like music from a big Broadway production but not from a Bollywood movie and certainly not from India, which I thought was the whole point of the story.

Direction by Steven Pimlott was confusing at best. It was hard to tell if he was trying to do his best working within some confines of a watery script or if he was just non-specific.

In a way I got what I wanted with "Bombay Dreams". The sets and costumes were opulent, the music and dance lavish. And I left the theatre feeling very manipulated. As I spent a couple days analyzing this feeling I spoke to a friend who informed me that there was a lot of rewriting and retooling of this Broadway production from the original London production.

I discovered that much of the music was changed with Indian sounds taken out and replaced with a more western sound, new songs added, lyrics and dialogue replaced, several subplots had been pared down, scenes were changed and the romance was given more of a central role and evolved into a love triangle. There were a lot of ethnic elements, rituals, traditions and jokes were either cut or Americanized for a Broadway audience. The main fear was that American audiences didn't have as much cultural savvy as the English, who are more familiar with Indian culture. In other words, they dumbed it down and white-washed it for us Americans.

Andrew Lloyd Webber Production of A R Rahman's "Bombay Dreams." Features Book by Meera Syal, Thomas Meehan. Based on an Idea by Shekhar Kapur and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Sound design by Mick Potter. Lighting design by Hugh Vanstone. Music director/dance music arranger James Abbott. Original additional music arrangements by Christopher Nightingale. Music coordinator Michael Keller. Musical supervision, orchestrations, vocal and incidental music arrangements are by Paul Bogaev.

The Broadway company features the talents of Manu Narayan (as Akaash), Anisha Nagarajan (as his love, filmmaker Priya), Ayesha Dharker (as Rani), Sriram Ganesan (as Akaash's best friend Sweetie), Marvin L. Ishmael (as Madan), Deep Katdare (as lawyer and Priya's fiance, Vikram) and Madhur Jaffrey (as Akaash's grandmother, Shanti).

The ensemble comprises Jolly Abraham, Mueen Jahan Ahmad, Aaron J. Albano, Celine Alwyn, Anjali Bhimani, Shane Bland, Wendy Calio, Tiffany Cooper, Sheetal Ghandi, Krystal Kiran Garib, Tania Marie Hakim, Dell Howlett, Suresh John, Ian Jutsun, Miriam Laube, Aalok Mehta, Ron Nahass, Michelle Nigalan, Zahf Paroo, Danny Pathan, Bobby Petska, Kafi Pierre, Sarah Ripard, Darryl Semira, Lisa Stevens, Kirk Torigoe, James R. Whittington and Nicole Winhoffer.


Where: Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway between West 52nd and 53rd Streets
When: Tuesday through Saturday at 8 PM, Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM, Sunday at 3 PM
Price: Orchestra and Front Mezzanine $101.25, Rear Mezzanine $101.25, $76.25, $46.25 - Wednesday Matinees: Orchestra and Front Mezzanine $91.25, Rear Mezzanine $91.25, $71.25, $41.25
Tickets: 212.239.6200 or 800.223.7565

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