Hat tip to the sixties
A popular short film club in the city ventures into theatrical productions with a musical set in the decade that produced some timeless melodies
On a Wednesday evening, long after the school hours are over, there is pin drop silence in the sprawling premises of a SoBo school. But once the door creaks shut and the assembly hall is crossed, the elevator takes us to the top floor where soft voices singing in unison become louder and louder.
A passage opens into the brightly lit auditorium area, where a group of actor-singers are bringing ABBA's popular track, Thank You for the Music, to life on stage. It's fitting; because everyone listens when they start to sing.
We are here for the rehearsal of the musical, Strangers in the Night, which marks the city-based short film club Shamiana's foray into theatre. "I had always wanted to do a musical, but it took a back seat with the focus on short film screenings. Theatre in Mumbai today shows great promise," shares Shamiana founder Cyrus F Dastur, who has produced the play with Shreya Valecha.
"Musicals often have a big cast. Our debut production, though, is on a smaller scale with seven actors and a cameo. It is an ode to some of the finest songs of the '50s and '60s. So you will get to hear a lot of Sinatra, Priestley and The Beatles," Dastur informs, adding that the production took over three months of rehearsal to firm up.
A love story set in a café in New York, the musical aims to transport the audience to the era when the tracks ruled the charts. "When I was scripting the play, I had to take care of cutting out all the current lingo. So you'll hear 'Aren't you a charmer?' or words like missy that bring out the naughtiness and feel of the era," informs director Shreyas Porus Pardiwalla. "But most importantly, you need to know that your actors can sing and dance," he adds.
Director Shreyas Porus Pardiwalla and Producer Cyrus Dastur
What's important to have in mind while directing a musical, Pardiwalla tells us, is to not give in to the temptation of adding a song just because it sounds great. "With music, everything changes. It's not a choir. It's a play, so you need to balance acting and singing. How does the song take the story forward is the question you have to ask every time," he says.
Calling the play a self-made one, Pardiwalla shares how all the actors pitched in with resources and suggestions to keep the feel of the play authentic. So, actor Dean Sequeira, who is a singer and songwriter, took the onus of conducting vocal training sessions for the rest of the cast, while professional dancer and singer Astrid Alphonso assumed the role of the choreographer.
Did the cast, which includes 12-year-old solo vocalist Shriya Rao, find it difficult to relate to the music? Actor Sukrit Sharma says, "We all love the music from the era. So, in fact, that made it a little easier for us to bring our characters to life."
ON September 15 and 16, 7.30 pm
AT Bombay International School auditorium, 42, Sir Vithaldas Thackersey Marg, New Marine Lines
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