Producer Andrew Lloyd Webber announced Sept. 30 that his production of the London musical, Bombay Dreams, a fantasia that incorporates lavish musical sequences worthy of India's so-called Bollywood films, will open on Broadway in the spring of 2004.
Casting and a theatre are to be announced.
"[Composer] A R Rahman is nothing short of a melodic genius," Lloyd Webber said in a statement from London. "It has been thrilling to watch London theatergoers embrace Bombay Dreams with such fervor. Bringing this talent and this musical to Broadway brings my own dreams for this project full-circle."
Bombay Dreams had its world premiere at London’s Apollo Victoria Theatre on June 19, 2002 and has quickly become one of the biggest hits in London's West End.
With a score by A R Rahman, lyrics by Don Black and a book by Meera Syal, based on an idea by Shekhar Kapur and Andrew Lloyd Webber, the show tells the story of a handsome young slum-dweller and his dreams of becoming a Bollywood movie star. Bombay Dreams will be produced on Broadway by Andrew Lloyd Webber, with direction by Steven Pimlott (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) and choreography by Anthony Van Laast and Farah Khan. The production is designed by Mark Thompson with lighting by Hugh Vanstone and sound design by Mick Potter.
According to a statement, "An extensive casting search for the North American production of Bombay Dreams will take the creative team to Toronto, Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Houston and Atlantic City in search of a cast of 42 with origins from the Indian continent."
The official Bombay Dreams website is at bombaydreamstheshow.com.
How did Andrew Lloyd Webber, the hugely successful composer of the international musical theatre smashes, The Phantom of the Opera and Cats, become interested in the subject of Indian romance seen through the lens of Indian film spectacles?
According to production notes, here's Lloyd Webber's account of the genesis of the show:
"I have been fascinated by what Westerners call, to most Indian filmmakers' indignation, Bollywood for several years. It all began thus. About a decade ago on Saturday mornings, Channel 4 showed a selection of popular Hindi movies in a series, which was called 'Movie Mahal.' On one such Saturday one of these films was playing on my kitchen TV. I was cooking lunch when a song lured me away from the stoves…
"Three lines of gorgeous girls were dancing for a few seated blokes with turbans whilst one girl moved demurely and sang in an abnormally high chest voice. Very good this song was too. Unfortunately I forgot to write down the name of the movie. To this day I haven’t traced it. Increasingly, I became interested in contemporary popular Indian music and the direction it was taking. Talvin Singh, in particular, struck me as introducing complex rhythms to Western audience in a way that was accessible and totally couched in the sounds of today.
"A couple of years later I was introduced at lunch to the film director Shekhar Kapur. Shekhar is best known for his Indian movie, 'Bandit Queen' and the drama, 'Elizabeth,' starring Cate Blanchett as Good Queen Bess I. Partly out of small talk, party out of genuine curiosity I asked him about Bollywood. He told me that dozens of movie musicals were made in India in any one year.
"I was fascinated. How could I not be when he told me that on any one night in Britain more Asians will see a musical on the screen than will a London audience see one on the stage. So I mentioned the unknown song. Shekhar volunteered to find it. He sent me a couple of videos that he compiled of dozens of Bollywood's greatest hits. I took the videos on holiday and chucked them on in the background whilst the kids were playing in the garden.
"I never found that song but I discovered something else. One in every five songs evinced a melody of pure gorgeousness or a rhythm so complex or a level of musical invention on a single 'drone' note that had me realize that I could be listening to something that I had always hoped would happen, the revitalization of popular melody from somewhere far removed from Western Europe and America.
"Twenty years ago I predicted that this would come about through the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union. I argued that the last that had produced Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Shostakovich et al would produce modern versions of these great melodists again the moment the tin lid was removed from their society. I argued that once young people from Eastern Europe could freely produce their own music the West would get the musical shot in the arm that it so badly needed as its pop atrophied in a land of 'grooves,' high tech production and manufactured boy and girl bands. I was wrong. What emerged as a consequence of the Soviet Union's collapse succeeded in lowering the tone of the Eurovision Song Contest still further.
"After a couple of days the music of one in every five Bollywood songs was hitting not just me but anyone who heard the stuff. There had to be a common denominator. This was their composer, A R Rahman. One look on the net revealed that he was a phenomenon in Asia where he’s known as the Asian Mozart. Rahman was born in 1966. His father was a Hindi and a musician. Rahman himself converted to Islam as a result of a family tragedy. That is when he took his name. His scores have been composed for some of India's most successful films including 'Dil Se' and 'Lagaan,' which was nominated for Best Foreign Film in the 2002 Oscars. With album sales of over 100 million, his albums have sold more than Britney Spears and Madonna combined. Soon my house was full of them. His awards in his homeland would cause the strongest mantelpiece to groan.
"I called Shekhar Kapur and asked if he could arrange that I meet him. Thus I found myself in Bombay and mobbed in the midst of a vast press conference organized by Shekhar to proclaim my interest in Rahman's music. When I asked him if he would consider writing a stage musical, he was intrigued, if more than a little bemused. Once he has said yes he came to London. The second day that he was in town I walked with him the hundred yards from my office near the Ivy to the Palace Theatre. I swear he signed 10 autographs en route. By the time we left the theatre the bush telegraph had seemingly caused most of the Asian headwaiters of Soho to be awaiting him outside the stage door.
"That was two years ago. Since then it has become my obsession to bring this melodic genius to the West End musical stage. I am proud to be introducing a composer to the west End who has this quote on his web site: 'If a music artiste wants to blossom into a fully-fledged person, it’s not enough if he only knows classical music or if he's well versed only in ragas and techniques. He should be interested in life and philosophy. In his personal life there should be, at least in some corner of his heart, a tinge of lingering sorrow.'"
Composer Rahman is the son of the late R. K. Sekhar, the well-known music director in the Malayalam film industry. He began his musical career at the age of 11 as a keyboard player. He graduated with a degree in Western Classical Music and began composing in 1987. His first film soundtrack was for "Roja." The score earned him every conceivable music award in India in 1992. Since then he has composed the scores for over 50 films including "Lagaan," "Fiza," "Taal," "Earth," "Dil Se," "Fire" and "Bombay." The sound track for "Bombay" sold more than five million copies.
Lyricist Black made his West End debut as lyricist with composer John Barry on the musical Billy, starring Michael Crawford. Together with Christopher Hampton, he penned book and lyrics on a musical version of Dracula, scheduled to open later this year on Broadway (though no date has been announced); three collaborations with Andrew Lloyd Webber, including the book and lyrics for the award-winning Sunset Boulevard (with Christopher Hampton); Tell Me on a Sunday, developed to form the basis for Song and Dance, and Aspects of Love (with Charles Hart).
Librettist Syal, who is also an actress, penned screenplays for the films "Anita and Me," the award-winning comedy, "Bhaji on the Beach," and "A Nice Arrangement," "My Sister-Wife," and the novels Anita and Me" (HarperCollins) and "Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee." Director Pimlott staged for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and helmed Dr. Dolittle (Labatt's Apollo Hammersmith); world premiere of Bad Weather (RSC); Vieux Carre (Nottingham Playhouse); Twelfth Night, The Winters Tale and the British premiere of The Park by Botho Strauss; world premieres of Never Land and The Strip, both by Phyllis Nagy (Royal Court); Carmen Jones; Carousel (Royal Exchange, Manchester); Butterfly Kiss (Almeida); Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (London Palladium and worldwide; the Donny Osmond version in North America) and more.
Choreographer Van Laast trained at the London School of Contemporary Dance, later joining the company as both performer and choreographer. His credits include Mamma Mia!, Jesus Christ Superstar, Whistle Down the Wind, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Song and Dance, Blondel, The Hired Man, Radio Times and more.
Choreographer Khan is the daughter of actor and filmmaker Kamran Khan. She began her choreographic career on the film, "Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander," directed by Mansoor Khan. Other film credits include "Pehla Nashs," "Kabhi Haa Kabhi Naa," "Viraasat," "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge," "Dil Se," "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai."