The Merchants of Bollywood
Alexandra Theatre * * * *
Review by Emma Pinch
The Merchants of Bollywood exploded on to the Birmingham stage this week in a blur of movement, colour and music.
Straight from the lots of Mumbai, this sparkling production is making its British debut at the Alexandra Theatre and on Wednesday hundreds of theatre-goers flocked to the venue to see the popular film genre brought to life on stage.
The storyline draws its inspiration from Bollywood's Merchant family choreographing dynasty and the changing styles of Indian musical film.
The protagonist of the production, award-winning choreographer Ayesha Merchant, grew up in the business.
Her grandfather was a choreographer in the 1950s and Ayesha was determined to follow in his footsteps, but she is equally determined to bring the genre bang up to date.
Her headstrong determination creates an estrangement with her celebrated relative.
In a nutshell, Ayesha leaves the family home to carve out her own niche in the world of the Bollywood musical, returns to Rajistan for a family celebration and falls in love with her grandfather's aide.
With the dearth of traditional values in Indian film and his skills now surplus to requirements, her grandfather falls into a decline. It is up to Ayesha to carry on his name.
This spectacular production – directed by Vaibhavi Merchant – is bursting at the seams with dance set pieces, interspersed with genuinely comic interludes from the clownish film set minions and the hilariously camp film director, and pastiches of the usual Bollywood plots.
In show-pieces brimming with life and energy, the 25 or so dancers whirled and writhed in ever more dazzling costumes, to popular Bollywood songs.
Pots of fire, a pair of monolithic gates and a striking statue of Shiva formed the atmospheric backdrop to the scenes set in Rajistan, while a disco-tastic screen of flashing lights bounced off the glitter on the dancers' costumes for the film spectaculars.
The singing and dancing sets ranged from Bollywood street style pieces, with men in ripped jeans and women in Christina Aguilera leather hotpants, to classical Indian dances with hypnotic drumbeats and the haunting wail of traditional instruments.
Some favourite film songs were given an outing, much to the delight of the crowd, and there was appreciative laughter to cracks about models and Miss World types taking the place of trained artists on Bollywood films.
All in all, the performance was a joy to behold and even if the bubblegummy final song It's Time to Disco was ringing in the ears for a little longer than desired, you couldn't help but leave this show feeling genuinely uplifted.
* Until Saturday, November 4.