Following a brief but lauded concert performance in Mumbai, the creative team behind Beyond Bollywood was eager to find a suitable venue for a fully fledged production in the West End. The prestige of the Palladium may appeal to producers but the scale of this theatre far outweighs the artistic merits of this show.
A quest story told through music and dance, Beyond Bollywood introduces German-born dancer Shaily. When greedy investors threaten to convert her theatre into a casino, Shaily turns to her late mother’s homeland of India for inspiration and ends up falling for a charming Bollywood choreographer.
Creators Rajeev Goswami, Irfan Siddiqui and Salim and Sulaiman Merchant are established names in Bollywood but this attempt to fuse the genre with a book musical format fails on several levels. While some of the dance pieces are entertaining, the book rarely rises above pantomime level, outstaying its welcome at every turn. The percussion-heavy score may be evocative of Indian culture but the live musicians are soon blasted out in favour of a recorded soundtrack and overt lip-syncing.
Romantic leads Ana Ilmi and Mohit Mathur make a handsome couple on stage but despite their skill as dancers, they struggle as actors under Goswami’s perfunctory direction. On film, such flaws might be patched up with spectacle but on stage there is nowhere to hide – not even behind the scenery, which has been replaced by a versatile but distracting animated LED show.
Beyond Bollywood may be a feasible concept but it requires greater thought and stronger production values than are present here before opening at the biggest theatre in the West End.
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