Taj Express (The Ordinary Moments)
Welcome back to The Ordinary Moments, which is about capturing those very special or very ordinary times.
Last night the kids and I were invited to watch Taj Express, a new Bollywood musical, at the Birmingham Hippodrome. I try not to take them out on a school night but they really wanted to watch this because a) they love the theatre and b) they love Bollywood music. The kids love giving their own verdicts about plays and productions too. Read our review of Wicked.
After dinner in town, we headed to the theatre and into the room which was being used to host press. It was decorated beautifully with flower garlands and brightly coloured candle holders. A projector played the trailer of the musical on loop to get everyone into the mood for the show. We each helped ourselves to the cute cupcakes with the most scrumptious frosting in vibrant colours.Even though Shivam was excited for the show, he was starting to get tired as he’s normally in bed by 8:30. I needn’t have worried – the show started with a bang and into a dance performance of ‘Jai Ho’ from the film Slumdog Millionaire. Shivam was wide awake straight away.
Let me just start by saying that if you’re expecting a show with a strong storyline and a mixture of speech and live vocals, then this is probably not for you. It’s not a typical West End musical in that sense. The dance sequences are performed to original Bollywood tracks from films. You couldn’t sing live on this show anyway because the energy is needed for the dancing.There isn’t much in the way of props either. Instead there is a huge projection screen which serves as the main backdrop. But I was happy to overlook all of this because that’s not the kind of show it is and I knew this before watching it.
Besides, the stage space is required for dance and props would just get in the way of seeing some amazing performances. I knew I was going to watch a show based on elaborate dance sequences which were high energy and intricate. Shivam was a bit confused at first and did ask me where the ‘actors’ were but he got to grips with the kind of show it was quite quickly.The loose storyline follows a young music director, Shankar, who idolises the great composer A.R.Rahman. His dream is to be just like him one day. Shankar is endearing and you find yourself willing him to do well.
You follow Shankar as he tries to score the music for a big Bollywood film. The only other character who actually has a speaking part apart from Shankar, is Flash, the electric guitarist. Most of the humour came from him and the kids laughed along whenever he cracked a joke.
There is some audience participation bordering on panto humour, which you’re made aware of at the start. There’s a fair bit of talking to the crowd and I think this was a plus-point for me because the kids and I really felt involved with the events on stage.I’m a huge Bollywood fan, so all the songs were instantly recognisable for me because they’re huge numbers. Shalini and Shivam were able to name a lot of the tracks too and they nodded along or sat up in their seats when a song they knew was played.All of the dance sequences are elaborate. I can’t believe how flexible all of the dancers were. There was a mixture of acrobatics, gymnastics and yoga together with modern pop, hip hop and traditional dance routines. The costumes are bright and the dancers have to change many times during the performance.
There were quite a few cheesy lines here and there but the audience giggled along so this wasn’t a big deal for me.I’ve been underwhelmed with Bollywood musicals in theatre before. I watched Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Bombay Dreams and it was a disappointment because I had high hopes for this West End show. The storyline was weak and the dances were nowhere near as adventurous as Taj Express.
I also watched Shilpa Shetty’s ‘Miss Bollywood’. The Indian actress had just won Celebrity Big Brother and was riding high on her popularity following the show. Her dancing was exceptional but it felt as though it had all just been thrown together in a rush and I was left wanting more.Each dance in this musical has been carefully choreographed and include some of the signature moves from the original Bollywood films. Shalini and Shivam immediately recognised some of the moves as I often break into them at parties (ahem!). I expected nothing short of amazing from a choreographer like Vaibhavi Merchant who’s behind some big dance sequences in Bollywood. Her sister Shruti directed the show.
The musical is highly energetic and even if you don’t know the songs, as many in the audience didn’t, you would still find yourself tapping your foot or clapping along. Overall it was an enjoyable one for me and well worth taking the kids to.
The costumes were really colourful and made everything stand out, especially for the main characters. The dancing was phenomenal because they used so many different moves. I can’t believe how mind-blowing the dancers were and some of them could do the splits! I knew a lot of the songs so that helped me enjoy it more. There was a lot of comedy and I liked it when they spoke to the audience.
My favourite character was Arjun. I liked the jokes and it was really funny. The costumes were really nice. My favourite bit was when Arjun was about to propose to Kareena. The fight dance was the second best bit. My favourite song was the Lord Shiva one because I am named after Shiva. Flash was so funny when he was teaching the audience yoga. It is the best musical I have seen.
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