It’s a very ambitious move to put any particular styled dance show on in the West End for a matter of months, let alone weeks. It’s even more ambitious to place that show in one of London’s biggest theatres which, due to economic times, can struggle to sell out its 2000+ seats every night, even with popular musicals and famous stars. Beyond Bollywood is ambitious and delivers its ambition through a colourful, atmospheric dance spectacle which is overly let down by its ridiculous script and plot. The appeal of the show is weakened heavily due to its commitment to unnecessary, overly long scenes.
We focus on our lead, Shaily, a dancer who leaves her home in Munich to go to Mumbai and then meets a choreographer who is trying to find the perfect fuse between eastern and western dance styles. They travel and discover different and colourful folk dances of many varieties which they use as inspiration to send out into a more mainstream world.
The show essentially consists of two phrases / lessons – “follow your heart” and “turn dreams into reality”. These phrases are focused on so heavily throughout that they very quickly lose their meaning and just incur wondering side-eyes from the audience.
The ensemble bring energy and enthusiasm to the stage. However, the majority of the dances come off as individual performances rather than ensemble. When it comes to group choreography, nothing is consistently crisp. You see numbers focusing on a particular dancer’s presence rather than the spectacle as a whole. With those faults, at least you’re noticing the passion in the shows performers.
The musical numbers, of which there are many, are grand. The orchestrations are rhythmically enchanting but are also very similar and it is hard to differentiate most of them. Choreography is similar throughout and therefore dilute the show as it continues to repeat itself. The only number that separates itself from the others is the comedic section in the second act featuring a homoerotic sequence to “It’s Raining Men”. Meant for a funny plot-point between characters, the humour falls into the likes of pantomime humour, and it feels odd.
The two leads, especially Ana Ilmi, are strong and are able to draw focus, even from the flatlining comedy-sidekick character.
Beyond Bollywood manages to bring great energy to its numbers and entertain an audience but its script and plot could be thrown away, and the dances taken down into a well-packed one-act show. The Palladium may not have been a perfect fit for this show by any means but the cast manage to equal their energy to the space they’re in. If Beyond Bollywood was ever going to attempt the West End again after this run, a smaller and more intimate venue and a shredding of the book would be recommended. Focus on India’s amazing musical and dance culture that they are more than able to bring.
Review by Tomm Ingram
8th May to 27th June 2015
8 Argyll Street, London, W1F 7TF
Wednesday 20th May 2015