by Kevin M. Thomas, @ReelKev
A great thing about theatre and movies is one can escape.
We can take a trip to the past and meet President Lincoln. We can travel forward and see how the world progresses through an alien’s point of view. Or we can take journey to a country when personal travel is not in our financial means.
In 2001, I took a fantastic journey to India where I “attended” the “Monsoon Wedding.” I was mesmerized with the beautiful people and attire they wear as well as the culture and traditions with the joyous wedding event, which takes several days. What a great vacation – and it only cost me two hours of my time.
I was able to relive this wonderful experience with the world premiere of a live musical version of this film, playing at Berkeley Rep through July 2.
The musical is very faithful to the original movie – likely due to having the same director (Mira Nair) and writer (Sabrina Dhawan). Their wonderful tale of two families with different cultural backgrounds and secrets gets a musical face lift with an array of memorable songs. The result is a plot that is advanced, while not derailing the story.
Oftentimes, a musical loses some of its depth as story is given up for song. But this time around, “Monsoon” seems richer and deeper in plot and manages to blend in a bit of history of India while it shares in cultural protocol and traditions.
Kudos to songwriters Vishal Bhardwaj and Susan Birkenhead for weaving the story with the songs and keeping the pace moving.
The cast is also in top form. Namit Das as the traditional Indian wedding planner is a true delight. He has a beautiful sparkle in his eyes, so his courting of another character is so believable with this infectious glimmer. He also is a great comedic talent with a beautiful singing voice.
Speaking of voices, Michael Maliakel who plays the Americanized groom has one of the most velvety and powerful voices I have ever heard. He is truly a find and is a talent we will likely hear a lot from in the future. The rich texture in his voice is only matched by his local power and I look forward to a future of show stopping moments.
The rest of the cast all have their moments and make the overall experience memorable.
Last Berkeley Rep show of this caliber is currently playing on Broadway. Can this be far behind?
Get tickets and information at www.berkeleyrep.org.