Arts Reviews

Bombay Dreams Reviewed

By Amy Somensky May 26, 2004, 19:41 GMT

Bombay Dreams is the new 14 million dollar transplanted London musical from the king of musicals Andrew Lloyd Webber. It is lush and lavish, but fails on so many levels that it pails in comparison to even the average musicals on Broadway today.

Manu Narayan and Anisha Nagarajan

The plot centers around Akaash (Manu Narayan), an Indian untouchable who is a movie freak and dreams of being a star in Bollywood to save the slums his family lives in from destruction. Soon Akaash makes it big in his debut, “Diamond in the Rough,” and lands in the arms of Bollywood’s biggest star, Rani (Ayesha Dharker), and eventually turns his back on his family. Of course all ends well when he has a change of heart and goes back to his roots and gets the girl, Priya (Anisha Nagarajan), in the end.

As there were some good parts, lets start with them, but they came few and far between. The music that opens the show was music to my ears. The music of A R Rahman is beautiful and  rhythmic. “Salaam Bombay” is a great musical opener. It is catchy and puts us in the place and situation the characters are in. The cast is then launched into the first of many dance numbers with strikingly similar steps. They dance their hearts and feet out, but did they learn only one move in rehearsals? In the show stopping number “Shakalaka Baby” the ensemble parade around in a dancing, rainbow like water fountain. It is one of the only original ideas, and is a  sight to behold, especially if you are into wet T-shirt contests.

Wet T-shirt Contest?

The costumes were beautiful, but they look as though the costume designer went a little too crazy with a bedazzler.  The lead singers were only average. They were even times when they were *gasp* lip-synching. It was supposed to fit in with the Bollywood theme, but I think it was just a cover so the cast wouldn’t be out of breath from the rigorous dancing.

Ayesha Dharker
The acting is forgettable. It lacks passion, intensity, and at moments it is flat out bad.  I believe most of the cast has fallen into the trap of a bad script and dialogue. The one exception is Ayesha Dharker. She plays Bollywood’s reining diva movie star, Rani. She is used far too little in a speaking role. Her character is the only one to be faithful to the parody of a Bollywood star. Rani is the only character to remain unpretentious even though the rest of the cast tries so hard to do it.

The opening song calls Bombay “the city of contradiction.” This says so much about this show’s problems that it goes way beyond irony. It cannot decide whether to be a drama or a parody of a Bollywood film. One minute it is serious and the next it is making a joke about what it was trying to be serious about. I have never seen a true Bollywood film, and am willing to admit that maybe I am missing the whole point, but it just didn’t work for me.

The story is so thin that it could be told in 30 minutes. Most of the show is lavish production numbers from the show within a show theme, as the Bollywood actors make their film. The Broadway version underwent a facelift by Thomas Meehan (The Producers and Hairspray) to fit in better with the US theatre going public, and it is painfully obvious. The final act is rushed, comical, and downright silly. Moments after the death of a major character, the cast is giddy and happy and off to stop a wedding. At the climax, when the true villain is revealed there is no suspense or unexpectedness. The lyrics have been rewritten by David Yazbek (The Full Monty) for the purpose of clarifying the plot. I think the better way of saying it is removing any plot.

Overall Bombay Dreams represents everything that can go wrong with a big budget Broadway musical. All the budget was spent on lavish sets and  costumes, but the creators skipped on the plot. Nothing about Bombay Dreams is truly painful, there are even some parts that were enjoyable, but no part of it was compelling, and most of it was forgettable.



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Bombay Dreams Closes Today

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