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  • Writer's pictureRaji Writes

Monsoon Wedding, the musical

I saw Mira Nair’s musical “Monsoon Wedding” at Berkeley Repertory Theatre.

I took my 11-year old daughter to see it with me. She has taken part in several musicals, and I thought seeing a production by a theatre company as excellent as Berkeley Rep would be a good, enriching and educational experience. We arrived early, parked and walked over to the Roda Theater. As we walked in, we heard Indian film music playing over the audio system. Strings of marigolds decorated doorways and the banister of the stairs that led up to our seats. We were early, and waited outside the doors, reading our programs.

Sunaina, seated at a high table across from me and facing the door, exclaimed before long “It’s open! People are going in! Come on!” And in we went. After we took our seats, Sunaina took note of the structural aspects of the stage and theater. “What are the wings made of? They are not cloth.” And “Look up, there’s a cat walk.” And three projection rooms at the back. Also, at the sides, were what appeared to be winches / pulleys with fabric that could be unfurled along long wires that extended to the opposite side of the theater.

The father, Lalit Verma, came on stage and welcomed us to his daughter’s wedding, and told us not worry about cell phones ringing and children crying, this is India, after all! I was delighted. This was off to a great start.

It had all the joy and astonishing energy of a Punjabi wedding. What a blast: PK Dubey (actor Namit Das) was as delightful as in the movie, and what’s more, sings like a nightingale. Other fantastic voices were Ria Verma (actor Sharvari Deshpande) and Hemant Rai (Michael Maliakel). They weave the lyrics into occasional highly melismatic phrases: from the profiles, many are classically trained singers—Western and Eastern. The set design and choreography were impressive. In a particularly moving scene depicting PK Dubey’s mother’s lost love at Partition, the two dance together but soon, a large curtain divides the stage, leaving them on separate sides. An effective multi-media approach was employed where images of Partition flash on the curtain as the scene unfolds. The backdrop on the stage is a large map of India and Pakistan. Other scenes, particularly the ones with the creepy uncle, nieces and honorable father are also pretty wrenching. But the foot-stomping picks right back up. In the final scene, and again after all the bows, the cast (singing of course) thrust their fists in the air with a resounding "Hoye!" Marvelous. Those in the seats closest to the stage were coaxed out of their seats to join in the dancing. Audience members all through the theater were encouraged to dance. What a hoot! The musical is headed to Broadway next, I understand. This is one of the rare instances where I have seen the movie well as the musical version, but have not yet read the book, by Sabrina Dhawan.

The concessions stand too was swept up in this Indian wedding. During intermission, I went to get Sunaina a cookie, and saw a snack box from Vik's as well as masala caramel popcorn from Dosa restaurant. I purchased the latter, and was not disappointed. Sunaina enjoyed her cookie and the overall experience. We walked to get a boba tea at Asha Tea House, and then went back to our car, sharing thoughts and observations on the play.

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