Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Also see Patrick's review of August: Osage County and Richard's reviews of Smut: An Unseemly Story (The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson) and The Roar of the GreasepaintThe Smell of the Crowd
Written by Sabrina Dhawan, the premise is simple, centered on a four-day wedding, with family members from around the world descending on Delhi to celebrate of the arranged marriage between modern upper-class Indian daughter Aditi Verma (Kuhoo Verma) and an Indian-American from New Jersey named Hemant Rai (Michael Maliakel)a guy she's never met. But the bride is having an affair with Vikram (Ali Momen), a television personality who is married, and her father Lalit (Jaaved Jaaferi) has financial trouble. We are introduced to the Verna aunties, headed by Shashi (Monsoon Bissell), and uncle CL Chawla (Sorab Wadia), and the Rai family, who have flown in all the way from the United States. Deep family secrets surface during the two and a half hour musical. There is drama, affection, hopefulness, humor, and a whole lot of rain.
The score by composer Vishal Bhardwaj and lyricist Susan Birkenhead is a mix of pop music and traditional Indian and Bollywood sounds. (I like Bollywood musicals, though the last Broadway Bollywood musical, Bombay Dreams, was not as good as Monsoon Wedding.) Choreography by Lorin Latarro is exceedingly energy driven.
Director Mira Nair, who also produced and directed the 2001 film the musical is based on, has assembled a cast from India and the United States to play the Verma and Rai families. They are trained in classical Indian singing. Kuhoo Verma as Aditi and Michael Maliakel as Hemant are harmoniously beautiful, especially on the love ballad "Neither Here nor There," where the golden voice of Maliakel shines. Another outstanding moment is Monsoon Bissell singing "Madhaniyan" as Shashi, with the rest of the cast dancing up a storm. Film and Indian TV star Jaaved Jaaferi is outstanding with his powerful voice as father Lalit.
The sumptuous and flexible set design by Mikiko Suzuki Macadams is impressive as are the colorful costumes by Arjun Bhasin.
Bottom Line: This is a fantastic musical full of adrenaline-charged music and vivid direction.
Monsoon Wedding plays through July 9, 2017, at Berkeley Repertory Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison Street, Berkeley. Tickets can be obtain by calling 510-647-2949 or visiting www.berkeleyrep.org. Coming up next is Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' An Octoroon beginning June 23 at Berkeley Rep's Peet's Theatre