By Nicole Curcio
“Taj Express: The Bollywood Musical” is currently on tour throughout the United States and performed at the Tilles Center on its second stop in America. Audiences at the Feb. 3 performance were treated to live music and dancing, a mix of a traditional and modern Indian Bollywood performance with costumes reflecting the culture of India.
The show began with a calm song and dance by a female soloist, leading into a more upbeat performance by the entire cast, all costumed in gold sparkles. The costumes are culturally influenced, including detailed patterns and glitter. Following dancing, the story line was introduced. While traditional Bollywood productions include a love story that ends with a happy ending of marriage and an occasional link to royalty, this play is about a songwriter taking the audience on an adventure to compose a score after he is given a Bollywood film script. The script and music are written and composed in Hindi, the most common language in India. Though centered around tradition, “Taj Express” brings a modern flavor to the stage by setting the scene in the songwriter’s studio. The script is in English but the music is sung in Hindi and some of the beats include hip hop rhythms.
The backdrop throughout the entire production makes changing scenes quick, dramatic, and exciting. Within seconds, the audience is taken from a studio space to a nightclub, a street, a garden, and a palace. One major concept throughout the performance is understanding that most of what the audience is seeing is the imagination of the song writer; he imagines what his music would look like in the script that he is working on. This is apparent to the audience as he reads through the script before, during, and after a dance piece is performed on stage.
Performers were different than previous dancers who have visited the Tilles stage. The bodies of the female dancers were not as toned and one of the lead male dancers had a makeup designed six pack. Individual precision did not seem to be much of a priority, as each dancer did the same movement slightly different from one another. However, as a whole, the company stayed in sync.
The performance ended with a happy Bollywood ending, but with an element of surprise. The dancers engaged with the audience, bringing them to their feet while dancing with them in the crowd. The show was fun and energetic and contained unique effects. “Taj Express was a worldly experience that was both entertaining and educational of a new culture,” Emily Bivona, a junior dance major, said.