Zatoichi & Bombay Dreams

Last weekend, I had the chance to see a Broadway show in the guise of a movie and a movie that cries out to be made into a Broadway show.

On Friday, after a visit to a local churrascaria, Jamie and I went to see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new Bombay Dreams. The premise is simple enough: take a Bollywood movie and put it on stage. It was largely a successful effort. Yes, as others have noted, the lyrics are at times tortured. And in comparison with the last show I saw (a production of Rent in London), this was very much B-movie material. Where it excelled was the “show,” a rotating fountain on stage (which caused three slip-and-falls — I hope they are well insured) and elaborate dance numbers energized the audience. In all, it was an enjoyable show, though it felt more like a movie than anything I’ve seen on stage in a while, and I can see why the reviewers might not have loved it. (The word “bland” came up often, as in the NYT review.)

I also got to see the new Beat Takeshi-led revamp of the Zatoichi franchise, which was as bizarre as it was entertaining. With the grande finale, an ensemble tap-dance, the film cries out to be made into a Broadway show. Mind you, if conservative Broadway thinks Bombay Dreams is risky (it was simplified for American audiences), creating a show that has enough hacked limbs to put Kill Bill to shame might be a bit much. And the surreal touches that come off as quirky in a film might be just plain weird on stage. Nonetheless, I would love to have the chance to see this in live theater.

So, although I very much enjoyed Bombay Dreams, and it was worth seeing, you might want to wait to see it on video. On the other hand, if Zatoichi appears on a screen near you, I would recommend you go out and see it, and relish the engaging weirdness of Beat Takeshi, perfectly choreographed swordplay, and tapping in geta.

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