Album Review: Bombay Dreams (2002 Original London Cast)

“Contradictions, city of extremes, anything is possible in Bombay dreams. 
Some live and die in debt, others making millions on the internet”

True story, until last week I thought Bombay Dreams was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Not having seen it onstage nor listened to it before, all I knew was the Lord’s name was attached to it and assumptions were thus made – it’s even his name that appears first on the album cover. But peruse a little closer and you see he’s just ‘presenting’ as one of the original producers, cast your eyes a little further down and A.R. Rahman is revealed as the composer. This may of course be old news to you but for me, it was a revelation before I’d even started!

This was multi-award-winning composer Rahman’s first effort for the stage and the palpable effort to mesh his unique take on Indian music with the world of musical theatre is obvious from the off. The musical soundscape that begins ‘Bombay Awakes/Bombay Dreams’ is layered and intriguing but the mood is shattered as soon as Don Black’s lyrics crash in (see the quote up top for a sample) and the combination is cringeworthily fatal. And across the score as a whole, the sense of compromise, of trying to serve two masters whilst pleasing none is too evident. Continue reading “Album Review: Bombay Dreams (2002 Original London Cast)”

Review: Catch Me, Above the Arts

“We’re all hurting”

The traditional image of musical theatre as clap-happy tap-dancing extravaganzas is one that still persists, even whilst musicals about living with cancer play at the National Theatre. And it is something that clearly occupies writers Arnoud Breitbarth and Christian Czornyj, as their introduction in the programme for their new show Catch Me tackles this issue head on. 

For Catch Me is a musical based around male suicide, the mental health struggles that lead people to such an act and the repercussions it has on those left behind. And pleasingly, Breitbarth and Czornyj show a strong understanding of the musical form and its storytelling potential. Here, songs tumble out of the characters, depicting their mental state, an organic extension of the story that really works, especially in the stronger first half. Continue reading “Review: Catch Me, Above the Arts”

Review: Seminar, Hampstead Theatre

“Am I trying to construct a living breathing cosmos with language or am I just scratching on the wall of a cave?”

Was there ever so suggestive an image as Roger Allam tossing paper into the air? Certainly not within a subset of my Twitter followers for a week or so when the publicity for Theresa Rebeck’s Seminar was released, marking the opening of the autumn season at the newly refurbished Hampstead Theatre (box office is on the left as you go in btw). Though sadly without beard, the prospect of seeing this most beloved of actors is always welcome, especially in as unfamiliar a milieu as modern American drama.

Four aspiring young novelists sign up to a writing group in New York which is led by the revered Leonard, once a celebrated novelist but now an editor and war chronicler, and through a series of classes, we see him ripping his new students to shreds in order to remake them into writers that might, just might, survive in the modern publishing world. Not everyone responds quite so well to this unorthodox approach however and their reactions and interactions mutate accordingly. Continue reading “Review: Seminar, Hampstead Theatre”