Mashing together family melodrama, a rags-to-riches success story and a little supernatural horror, Stardust is an ambitious new musical struggling under the weight of its own ideas.
Written by Shahid Iqbal Khan and Samir Bhamra, the story follows YouTube singer Amar, a closeted gay Asian man who happens to be the reincarnation of his homicidally sleazy record producer’s ex-wife. It’s an imaginative attempt to confront issues of sexuality and acceptance in BAME communities, but an underwritten script and stiff performances fail to do justice to the urgent themes.
Bhamra’s confident direction fills the piece with movement, with performers making dramatic entries from all around the auditorium, through beaded curtains, and once, unsettlingly, by crawling backwards out of a bathtub.
Among an uneven cast, Sophie Kandola has plenty of presence as ghostly apparition Amor, swooping suddenly out of every shadow, while Christoph L Dorocant is believably loathsome as predatory pop star Cyrus, oozing overconfidence as a smokescreen for his internalised self-hatred.
As Amar, Robby Khela channels a wide-eyed, rabbit-in-headlights energy, careening between moral dilemmas. He shares a convincing chemistry with Aizaac Sidhu’s gay rights activist Seth, and their scenes together are wonderfully gentle and intimate.
As composer, Khela gives the production a perfectly serviceable poppy score, which gains some depth from layers of scratchy, sinister strings. It’s enjoyable but bland for the most part, only really soaring during the closing number – a thumping Bollywood wedding dance track – which ends the often-lacklustre show on an exuberant high.