Mira Nair, the filmmaker of such celebrated movies as Salaam Bombay and Mississippi Masala, is directing a musical adaptation of her 2001 film Monsoon Wedding that is currently on stage at the Berkeley Repertory Theater, with plans to move to Broadway.
Let’s hope it does.
The story of the many family members who converge on Delhi for an arranged marriage is lively, colorful, and tuneful. It also has something to say – about the bridging of cultures, about the effects on individual families of globalization, but mostly about love in its many forms. It would also be the first musical on Broadway since Bombay Dreams (which ran for about nine months in 2004) to feature a South Asian cast, characters, and story.
Many stories, really. If some of the subplots from the movie have been shorn from the musical, Monsoon Wedding is still an extravagantly woven tapestry whose central thread is the wedding of Hemant (the golden voiced baritone Michael Maliakel), who is from New Jersey, and Aditi (a lovely Kuhoo Verma), the only daughter of a privileged Indian family that has seen better days. Hemant and Aditi have never met – and, we learn soon enough, Aditi already is involved with a husband…which is to say, she is having an affair with a married man. There are plenty of other complications.
If the story may need some further streamlining and some of the lyrics rethinking before a New York run, the work of the creative team — especially the exciting choreography by Lorin Latarro (“Waitress,” “American Idiot”) the bright, enchanting costumes by Arjun Bhasin, and the pulsating, eclectic score by Vishal Bhardwaj — meld Broadway-level entertainment with what feels like an authentic glimpse into present-day Indian culture. The musical is full of delightful little moments – such as when the father of the bride, Jaaved Jaaferi (Lalit Verma) sings “You will learn to love each other just as I learned to love your mother” – with the music is full-out swing-era jazz, and Jaaferi… letting loose.
Book by Sabrina Dhawan
Music by Vishal Bhardwaj
Lyrics by Susan Birkenhead
Directed by Mira Nair
Scenic design by Mikiko Suzuki MacAdams, costume design by Arjun Bhasin, lighting design by Donald Holder, sound design by Scott Lehrer, projection design by Peter Nigrini, music supervision by Carmel Dean, music direction by Greg Kenna, and choreography by Lorin Latarro
Cast: Bissell (Shashi Chawla), Meetu Chilana (Grandmother), Emielyn D. Das (Aliya Chawla), Namit Das (PK Dubey), Sharvari Deshpande (Ria Verma), Palomi Ghosh (Vijaya/Naani), Rohan Gupta (Varun Verma), Jaaved Jaaferi (Lalit Verma), Dani Jazzar (Swing), Mahira Kakkar (Pimmi Verma), Namita Kapoor (Swing), Krystal Kiran (Saroj Rai), Michael Maliakel (Hemant Rai), Ali Momen (Vikram/Congress), Anisha Nagarajan (Alice), Andrew Prashad (Mohan Rai/Tameesuddin), Alok Tewari (Tej), Levin Valayil (Lottery), Kuhoo Verma (Aditi Verma), and Sorab Wadia (Cl Chawla)
Monsoon Wedding is on stage at Berkeley Repertory Theater through July 16, 2017.
Photographs by Kevin Berne