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Interview with Reece Bahia from the cast of Laila The Musical

Reece Bahia and Director Pravesh Kumar
Reece Bahia and Director Pravesh Kumar – Photo credit Richard Lakos

Rifco, Watford Palace Theatre and Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch present Laila: The Musical, written and directed by Pravesh Kumar, composer is Sumeet Chopra and Lyricist Dougal Irvine.

Rifco Artistic Director Pravesh Kumar directs Reece Bahia, Ravin J Ganatra, Mona Goodwin, Kush Khanna, Sami Lamine, Sheena Patel, Vedi Roy, Shin and Yinka Williams in the production which opens at Watford Palace Theatre on 7th April 2016. Laila then tours to The New Wolsey Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Warwick Arts Centre, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, Theatre Royal Windsor and The Lowry.

From the creators of acclaimed award-winning musical Britain’s Got Bhangra comes a new contemporary musical – Laila. Director and Writer Pravesh Kumar (The Deranged Marriage, There’s Something About Simmy), Music Composer Sumeet Chopra (Break the Floorboards) and Lyricist Dougal Irvine (Departure Lounge, In Touch) have come together for a retelling of the greatest eastern love story – Laila Majnu.

Originating in 7th century Persia, the bittersweet story of star-crossed lovers has been passed down through verse and song over centuries. It was popularized by 12th century Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi with his version Layla u Majnun and British poet Lord Byron described the story as the “Romeo and Juliet of the east”. Predating Shakespeare’s play by 700 years, it is said to have inspired the bard’s tragic love story.

The story of young love and feuding families is being given a contemporary musical twist by the Laila creative team.

Reece Bahia plays Qays. His theatre credits include Buddy Holly’s Rock and Roll Show (Belgrade Theatre) and Got to be Michael and Sandra Godley’s Sounds of the 60s, 70s & 80s (Cambridge Corn Exchange). Reece won Coventry’s Young Entertainer of the Year prize in 2013.

Reece recently took time out to chat about his career and Laila: The Musical.

In 2013 you won Coventry’s Young Entertainer of the Year prize. What has this meant for your career?
Winning Coventry’s Young Entertainer of the Year in 2012 was the first time I realised that I could actually pursue a career in performing arts. I was 16 at the time and doing my A’ levels, pursuing a course of study for a career in Dentistry.

The competition led to many local opportunities such as headlining the Rhythm Tent at Godiva Festival and local productions. I also began writing and recording original tracks. All of these opportunities helped build my confidence and shape me into the performer I am now. I have since recorded my debut EP – Addicted, was recently cast as the face of a TV and online campaign for Indian clothing company KOOVS and cast in Rifco’s Laila The Musical, my first theatre tour.

What can you tell us about your audition for Laila The Musical?
My audition for Laila the Musical was a really great experience. I am still very new to the theatre audition process. It is always difficult to gauge what to expect when going into the audition room but it couldn’t have been more welcoming. Both Pravesh Kumar, the director and writer, and Debbie O’Brien, the casting director, were extremely supportive and encouraging in the room. I prepared Gone too soon by Michael Jackson and a song from the show.

Can you tell us about Laila The Musical?
Laila The Musical retells the eastern story of Laila Majnu in a bright new and refreshing way. The story is based on an ancient Persian poem which is said to be based on a true story. It is a classic love story of young love and tragedy. Our version brings together the old world and the new through music.

You play the part of Qays. What can you tell us about him and how he fits into the storyline?
Qays is the love interest of Laila. In many ways the character is a heightened version of myself but in a lot of other ways we are worlds apart. Finding the balance has been an interesting and enjoyable challenge. He is a confident and headstrong young man.

What is special about this production and why should everyone get along to see it?
This production is one not to be missed as it has everything a show should have in it. A classic story – love and laughter, an amazing soundtrack which can best be described as a celebration of eastern culture through contemporary music and it is all based around a breathtaking set design.


Is this the story that inspired Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet?
From the creators of the award-winning Britain’s Got Bhangra (People’s Favourite Musical – Off West End Awards), comes a new contemporary musical, retelling the greatest love story from the east.

Laila takes shelter from a raging storm in an old bookshop, where she chances upon a book with her name on it.  She is compelled to open the book and is consumed by the story – Laila finds herself in an old story and on a new journey…

From the Persian deserts, the bittersweet story of star-crossed lovers Laila and Majnu, has been passed down through verse and song over centuries. The story of young love and feuding families is given a modern musical twist, taking you across the sands of time. Will love or fate prevail?

Director: Pravesh Kumar
Designer: Libby Watson
Costume Designer: Andy Kumar
Lighting Designer: Philip Gladwell
Sound Designer: Ben Harrison
Movement Director: Cressida Carré
Musical Director, Orchestration and Arrangements: Benjamin Holder
Casting Director: Debbie O’Brien
Puppets Designed and Made by: Matthew Robins

2 – 17 April Watford Palace Theatre – Press night: 7 April, 7pm
watfordpalacetheatre.co.uk – 01923 225671

27 – 30 April The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich
wolseytheatre.co.uk – 01473 295900

4 – 8 May West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
wyp.org.uk – 0113 213 7700

10 – 15 May Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry
warwickartscentre.co.uk – 024 7652 4524

17 – 21 May Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch
queens-theatre.co.uk – 01708 443333

24 – 28 May Theatre Royal Windsor
theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk – 01753 853 888

31 May – 4 June The Lowry, Salford
thelowry.com – 0843 208 6000


  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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