It is hard to imagine what a Bollywood musical set in the East End of London might be like, but Wah! Wah! Girls wasn’t quite the Pat Butcher-meets-opulent India experience you might expect.
That said, a culture clash of similar proportions takes centre stage in the new musical from Sadler’s Wells playing as part of the World Stages London season, as modern day Bollywood collides with the traditional Indian Kathak culture. From Keith Khan’s costumes to Javed Sanadi and Gauri Sharma Tripathi’s contrasting choreography, the conflict between old and new can be seen in every aspect of the sparkling production.
Underneath the sequins and sparkles, Wah! Wah! Girls is a story of love against the odds. While dance club owner Soraya (Sophiya Haque) has to confront the wounds of her past before she can allow another man into her life, Sita (Natasha Jayetileke), a young girl who has fled from her family, has to overcome the dominating matriarch who is determined to destroy the relationship she has with her son.
Niraj Chag’s contemporary score, which is set against a host of traditional Bollywood tracks, is powerfully performed by both female leads. Haque channels all of her character’s pain into the show’s heart-felt musical numbers, but it is probably Jayetileke’s faultless vocal performance, teamed with her strong personality and likeable ‘street’ attitude, that makes her the star of the show.
While Haque and Jayetileke give the story its emotion, the rest of the cast provides the humour. Philip Brodie’s bizarrely hilarious performance as the Polish handyman turned superhero comes second only to Rina Fatania’s husky-voiced Bindi whose bumbling presence – even when she isn’t on stage – never fails to provide amusement.
While Albert Square has boasted more believable storylines, Wah! Wah! Girls presents a cast of unforgettable characters and an evening of non-stop entertainment.