Bombay Dreams hits the roads

Updated: Apr 30 2006, 05:30am hrs
Bombay Dreams was a moderate hit in London in 2002, but it flopped on Broadway in 2004, partly because American theatregoers were not familiar with the musicals exotic subject matter: the Indian film industry known as Bollywood. When the show was being prepared to tour in February 2006, director Baayork Lee decided they needed to educate the audience.

We are up against Sound of Music and Beauty and the Beast, Lee said. So the basic boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl book of the musical was reconfigured for the road as the story of a movie being made in the teeming metropolis of Mumbai. Clips from Bollywood musicals play on video screens in the theatre. Kitty, a minor character in the London and New York productions, has been expanded into a big role as host of Access Bollywood and interpreter of whats going on. It was important to explain what Bollywood is about, said Lee.

A R Rahman was unknown to Western audiences until Andrew Lloyd Webber brought him into Bombay Dreams. The shows score has lyrics by Don Black and is a great sampling of the pop music of South Asia an infectious mix of hip-hop, reggae and electronica that has become trendy in the West. Chaiyya Chaiyya, a song in the musical, is featured on the soundtrack of Spike Lees new movie Inside Man.

Elaine Davidson, music director on the tour, says the melody is exotic yet accessible. Bombay Dreams has a nine-piece orchestra, which includes keyboards, a woodwinds player, bass, cello and a drummer in the pit. There are two onstage percussionists in Indian garb, Dave Sharma and Deep Singh.

Among the producers of the Bombay Dreams tour, which started in February, 2006, in Southern California, is the Independent Presenters Network. In doing Bombay Dreams, we want to bring new product to our audiences, said Robert Freedman, chief executive of Ruth Eckerd Hall.

Ruth Eckerd Hall, in Clearwater, is the only Florida venue where Bombay Dreams will appear. People of Indian descent make up less than 1 % of the population of the Tampa Bay area, says Lex Poppens, director of marketing and communications at the hall. The show is featured on the cover of the April issue of CityMasala.

Lata Kumar, who promotes Indian concerts in Tampa feels, Most Indians will be going for it. For us, Rahman is a superstar.

NY Times