Bombay Dreams bombed in New York; critics panned the musical as a sensory overload that blurred into monochromatic dullness. But that was New York; out here we get the dancing fountain references. And rumor has it that the ready-made American version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber spectacular is way more Busby Berkeley and Ziegfeld Follies than it is vintage Bollywood. The comparison is apt, as Bollywood has always played off LA fabulousness, and this is nothing if not a musical tailored for American tastes.
Produced first in London in 2002 by Webber and Indian movie director Shekhar Kapur, Bombay underwent some plastic surgery before making the trip across the Atlantic. Thomas Meehan of The Producers fame did a rewrite with the original author, Meera Syal, slimming down its plot and music for American audiences weaned on Britney Spears and unaccustomed to Bollywood's G-rated sprawl.
Bollywood occupies a niche all its own; its films entertain more than 1 billion people on the Asian subcontinent with values-based family entertainment that rigidly adheres to several key principles. Set to music by well-known Bollywood composer A.R. Rahman, Bombay stays true to the "poor boy meets rich girl" tenet and also to the mix-of-genres rule—blending music, drama, humor and song into one big, happy party. The musical tells the story of Akaash, a lower-class resident of a slum called Paradise who becomes a film star. He falls in love with the daughter of a Bollywood film director—setting in motion a classic class conflict that, like so many films before it, ends with a storybook finale.
Songs like "Shakalaka Baby" and "Chiyya Chaiyya" are hip-popping, hand-flicking fun—there's even a number featuring dancers in wet saris—and a saucy color palette of oranges, golds, greens, purples, yellows and pinks bodes well for a joyous cinematic experience. This is exoticism and romanticism all in one well-crafted package—a chance to enjoy another kind of Broadway: one without tinny-voiced Betty Boops tap-dancing in fishnet tights.
BOMBAY DREAMS, ORANGE COUNTY PERFORMING ARTS CENTER, 600 TOWN CENTER DR., COSTA MESA, (714) 556-2787; WWW.OCPAC.ORG. TUES.-FRI., 8 P.M.; SAT, 2 & 8 P.M.; SUN., 2 & 7:30 P.M. THROUGH MARCH 5. $20-$65.