Review – Bollywood Cinderella: the Pantomime! – Tara Arts Theatre

by

Cross “Bollywood” and “Panto” and you know that I’ll be beating down the door. I was clued in to this show by, of all things, Time Out‘s London panto listings (rather than the seemingly more comprehensive It’s Behind You). Everything got even better because the theater, Tara Arts, is right down the street from where I live, and as it was early in the run, they were nice enough to give me a free set of tickets (though for cushion seats on the floor). Saturday matinee after a yummy lunch at Tooting Broadway’s Dosa and Chutney, how could this not be a totally brilliant afternoon?

As it turns out, I could not have asked for a better time than this authentically British panto. From the pink Christmas tree decorated with plastic fruit and garlands of flowers in the lobby to the tiny auditorium (seating for maybe 50?), it was shiny, glittery, high energy, and fun, fun, fun. The lights went up on a cast of mixed familiarity (evil stepmother and stepsister in traditional eye-burning bad drag – Simon Norburry and Ali Zaidi) and the more glamorous and exotic Prince Raj (Nitin Ranpuria, my God the muscles) and Sunder(ella – Krupa Pattani, as beautiful and graceful as a princess should be, but with way more attitude than the normal humble and somewhat dull Cinders). The bridge between the two worlds is the Buttons-like character of Nitin (Maya Sondhi), who is the prince’s butler/companion. Nitin explains a lot of the Bollywood traditions (and Hindi words) for the benefit of us less clued-in types, so the “dream sequence” and lip synching make more sense. That said, singer Sohini Alam had such a great voice I was happy to have her doing all of the songs – it’s rare to get such raw talent in a “backing band” and I revelled in every note.

The story is not much changed from the original, except that the stepmother is a queen (having won the right to the kingdom from Sunder’s father in a bet), and the prince actually meets Sunder before the ball as he roams the countryside looking for someone who loves him for himself, not for his title. This leads to some interesting scenes as both the Queen and her “daughter,” Happy-Lucky, fall in love with the wrong guys. But we of course have a ball, and there is a missing slipper, so most of the traditional elements are firmly in place even though the dancing and singing vegetables (with their hilarious cast-off sweater costumes) are nowhere to be found in the original. There are even a few topical political jokes for the adults.

With all of the energy of this show, it’s a grim faced grinch who wouldn’t get into it, as the dancing five year old seated on the front row cushions demonstrated. It’s original, witty, musical, fun to watch, loaded with puns, and has a okra/aubergine romance – and rounds it all out with this year’s obligatory Lady Gaga reference. And it didn’t wear out its welcome. If I were looking for a really fun panto that was a good time for all ages of audience, I would absolutely pick this little diamond. Tara Arts is going to be one to be beat this year!

(This review is for the matinee performance that took place on Saturday December 190th, 2011. It continues through December 24th.)

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2 Responses to “Review – Bollywood Cinderella: the Pantomime! – Tara Arts Theatre”

  1. flemingsarah9 Says:

    Very nice review.

  2. Human Nature » Cross Dressing Says:

    […] wife did read out a few comments from a professional review and I have just found am amateur blog review. Overall the reviews were very positive and I was looking forward to the production but not […]

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