Laila – The Musical

Book by Pravesh Kumar, Music by Sumeet Chopra, Lyrics by Dougal Irvine and Presented by RIFCO, Watford Palace Theatre and Queens’ Theatre (Hornchurch). 

Laila The Musical is a contemporary new musical that comes from the creators of the award-winning Britain’s Got Bhangra (People’s Favourite Musical – Off West End Awards), and they are now retelling the greatest love story from the east – Laila and Majnu.

This is a story that dates back to 7th Century Persia, so it’s up to 700 years prior to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which begs the question, did this tale from the East inspire that?

It begins in a modern day Bradford, where Laila takes shelter from a raging storm in an old bookshop, where she stumbles across a book with her name on it so she’s compelled to open the book and quickly consumed by the story as she finds herself in an old story.

It then tells the bitter-sweet story of star-crossed lovers Laila and Majnu, which has been passed down through verse and song over centuries. The story of young love and feuding families is given a modern musical twist, taking you across the sands of time, until taking you full circle, back to the modern day.

Aside from the obvious likeness to Romeo and Juliet, the story also seemed to have similarities to popular Disney stories, like Aladdin, as well as other modern twists on the story of forbidden lovers such as West Side Story.

However, despite the story being ages old, many of the subjects touched on still felt very modern. As it touches on gender equality, feminist issues, conflicting families and people stuck between two cultures.

The set and costume were true to the theme, with an exciting mix of the traditional and modern elements and they had a moment of using shadow puppets which was a unique touch as it was something that isn’t often used on stage as well as a creative use of some silk cloths. 

The cast were brilliant, especially the leads of Mona Goodwin (as Laila) and Reece Bahia (as Qays) who both have great potential. However, they were all great, and many were playing multiple roles as there was only a cast of 9.

The music was an original score, and a very good one too. With five musicians in sight, the songs were catchy and dramatic, with a sound that again stayed true to the theme but mixed with a modern pop sound, and again some of the songs reminded me of something you could hear in a Disney film.

Overall, it was great to see another excitingly diverse show. I would recommend this tale of love, lust, power and drama that is suitable for all the family (though the suggested age is 8+).

Plus, by seeing this show you’re supporting under-represented British Asian talents which is great!

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The show runs at The New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich until the 30th of April, before continuing on a small nationwide tour.

For more information and to book visit: www.wolseytheatre.co.uk / rifcoarts.com

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