The press night of Bombay Dreams at the Apollo Victoria on June 19 was a rare case of East meets West glamour.
A host of celebrities turned out to see the show. Liza Minnelli, Jerry Hall, Bob Geldof, Sir Michael and Lady Caine, and fellow musical star Denise van Outen — who claimed that her cleavage was getting back to normal after losing weight during her spell in the high-energy Chicago — went to support Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bombay Dreams.
Many of the female stars (including Miss van Outen) wore outfits that reflected the Indian theme of the evening, and — in tune with the summer sunshine — there were as many colorful saris in the auditorium as there were onstage.
Lloyd Webber is producer rather than composer — that distinction goes to the prolific and vastly talented A. R. Rahman — "the Mozart of Madras" — but his name is inextricably linked with the £4.5 million show, and his backing of such a radical departure from the normal range of West End musicals is a huge gamble for him. Early reviews have been mixed — "Dull" said the Evening Standard, immediately qualifying this by adding that it was also "ingenious, inventive and radical." The Daily Telegraph referred to "several terrific set pieces" but added that "the director, Steven Pimlott, often allows the action to drag."
In contrast, The Guardian's comments include "Steven Pimlott's production wittily acknowledges the baroque cinematic environment of the Apollo Victoria," while adding that "Mark Thompson's designs are a delight."
Overall, the impression seems to be that this Bombay Dreams is a brave attempt at something new, and provides the essentials of any major musical — spectacle, great dance numbers and soaring songs — with a uniquely Indian flavor. The CD of the show is likely to do well as A. R. Rahman has a huge following and has sold more albums than Madonna and Britney Spears combined, and Bombay Dreams itself offers West End theatregoers a refreshingly different night out at the theatre.
—By Paul Webb Theatrenow