A colourful tribute to the Bollywood genre, this big-hearted show explodes onto the Hornchurch stage in a riot of song and dance, gorgeous costumes and songs from the big screen. A little bit camp, a little bit kitsch, but great uncomplicated fun from the title song to the wedding finale.
The setting is simple – stylised Himalayas for a backdrop, and a suggestion in front of Lakshman Villa, the comfortable family haveli in warm colours. There are many scenes, involving the shifting of trucks and some awkward fades to black, but the story moves along almost seamlessly.
Like many jukebox musicals, the plot is secondary to the numbers. Here we have a typical romance, borrowing cleverly from She Stoops to Conquer, in which there is conflict between the old ways and the new, India and the UK, the big city and the quiet life up-country.
Katrina (Nisha Aaliya) is an over-worked doctor in the UK. She’s flying back to her roots in India for her brother’s wedding. Across the aisle sits Ronny (Robby Khela), on a pilgrimage of his own. We sense, as they do, that their paths will cross again.
But Katrina’s mother is anxious to fix her up with “a suitable boy”, and little brother Lucky – the Tony Lumpkin of this version, played by Anthony Sahota – has biceps to die for and issues of his own as the plot unfolds.
But it’s not really about the story. Both the writing and the acting are often little more than adequate. As Katrina reminds us, Bollywood is 100% escapism, the sort of thing that movies used to do, back in the day that La La Land sought to recapture. There are fine comic performances from Sakuntala Ramanee as the match-making mother, and Rohit Gokani as the crusty whisky-drinking Colonel. Nice work, too, from the trio of house-servants, and Yanick Ghanty as Amit, the film star with the London accent.
It’s all about the exuberant song and dance – Khela particularly impressive in his numbers. And what a variety there is, from the pumping bass of the opener to the almost operatic temple scene, and the traditional puppet dance up on the roof.
It would be nice to have some live music, maybe even one or two actor/musicians, but the glitzy staging and the feel-good fairy-tale will certainly please the Essex fans as it has Coventry and Doncaster – this tour takes its final bow in Peterborough at the end of August.