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Review: Wah! Wah! Girls Musical at Stratford East

BY Boon Koh
Published 20 September 2012

The title itself is enough to make you sit up and take notice. Wah! Wah! Girls offers the same fun and good-feel night out that makes this a great night out whether with a date, friends, or family. It is the first time I’ve been to a Bollywood-inspired musical in London. Although one could say that the Indians have always done great musicals for years in their Bollywood movies…

After a run at Sadler’s Wells earlier this year in May, Wah! Wah! Girls is back at the Stratford East theatre. Its not exactly one of the mainstream West End theatres. Located on the now more-well-known Stratford of East London, its always been on the fringe of the London theatre scene. It has always inspiring new plays, and Wah! Wah! Girls is no different.

The musical itself is set in East London, and follows the life of a few key figures in this local community – and their stories of love, family, and hardship. In addition, there are lots of pigeons. If there ever was an award for a musical that did the most to feature pigeons, Wah! Wah! Girls will be it!

Choreographed by Javed Sanadi and Gauri Sharma, and with the show being marketed as “East London meets Bollywood in a musical”, you might wonder how much of a convicting story there will be amongst the typically cheerful song and dance of Bollywood. But playwright Tanika Gupta has managed to craft and weave an intricate story into Wah! Wah! Girls. While still obliging by having serious scenes quickly break out into a Bollywood song and dance, the story is full of intrigue, twists, and a surprising ending.

But the real strength of the Wah! Wah! Girls musical is not the singing, dancing, or story. But rather, the often unsung lighting designer, Malcolm Rippeth. I have not seen a better choreographed, more intricate lighting show ever in a musical. Sometimes it felt like every single colour of the rainbow was used to light up the stage, but all at the right angles and directions to create an explosion of colours. I presume when drug users say they are tripping, this is what it must feel like.

So get yourself down to Stratford, turn right to Stratford East Theatre Royal instead of left to Westfield, and experience this interesting new musical in the heart of East London!

Wah! Wah! Girls the Bollywood Musical is running until the 29th September at Theatre Royal – Stratford East. Tickets from £10 (£8 concessions for students, OAP).