This has to be one of the most hotly anticipated openings of the year, not least because of its choice of composer, AR Rahman.
In this respect Andrew Lloyd Webber demonstrates good taste, Rahman is indeed a great talent. His distinctive melodies almost engulf the audience at times, boosted by a newly refurbished theatre’s excellent sound system. But the composer’s work is undermined by a weak creative structure which ensures Bombay Dreams never reaches its full potential.
Meera Syal’s frequently disjointed and far-fetched libretto, with the odd funny one-liner, follows the story of Akaash (Raza Jaffrey) and Priya (Preeya Kalidas). He lives in the slum but holds on to his dreams of one day starring on the big screen. She is the daughter of a successful film producer/director. Lo and behold the world of Bollywood brings them together, and whatever nasty plot twists and turns confront them you know love will win out in the end.
All right for a Bollywood movie but what about the more conventional Western musical format? Unfortunately, focus goes out of the window and the two traditions are left pulling in opposite directions.
Perhaps it is not surprising then that the highlights of the evening are those staged as part of Bollywood film-making. Both Shakalaka Baby (complete with water feature) and Chaiyya Chaiyya are great fun, well performed with choreography by Anthony Van Laast and Farah Khan.
Elsewhere Don Black’s lyrics can be predictable and irritatingly repetitive and although designer Mark Thompson presents a few original ideas, the look of the show hardly takes one’s breath away. Even some of the lead performances are disappointing, especially in the vocal department. However, the bitchiness between Shelley King’s gossip columnist Kitty and movie star Rani, played by Ayesha Dharker, raises the mood, while Raj Ghatak and Ramon Tikaram also deserve a mention.
Director Steven Pimlott does his best to pull all these disparate strands together but it is difficult to keep the pace compelling. Lloyd Webber is brave to back new talent but in this case the whole project could turn out to be an expensive gamble that may never return the dividends he hoped for.
This show was reviewed prior to the website launch. A new review may be pending.