My reaction to the musical Britain’s Got Bhangra when it played at Watford Palace last year was one of curiosity – I liked the music, I enjoyed the high energy dancing but I didn’t engage too deeply with the script. Second time around, watching the suped-up show last night back at the Palace, I saw it achieve an impeccable sense of balance and integrity.
So what’s changed? Keith Khan, who recently acted as head of culture for the London Olympics, has created a set that thrills and surprises at every turn and, best of all, puts the suberb bhangra band stage centre throughout.
This is the story of how bhangra music and Asian immigrants have fared on British soil. Twinkle loves to sing and through it he wins the heart of Jussi. He heads to the UK to seek a better life for them.
Told through key moments in history, from the Silver Jubilee in the ‘70s, alternate bouts of Tory, Labour and coalition power and two Royal weddings, the show highlights the racism, exploitation and poverty suffered by generations just looking to call England home.
Amid the tears and the trials are moments of great joy and laughter. When Twinkle sings the world listens, but record producer Shinde is the only one to profit.
Shin, who took the lead role as Twinkle last time around, has dug deep to produce an astonishingly heartfelt performance both as an actor and a singer. His vocals are spellbinding and his duets with Jussi, played by newcomer Sohm Kapila, expose the emotion and playfulness in bhangra music in equal measure.
Also new are Natasha Jayetileke who makes for a more sympathetic Shinde, Jason Denton whose jazz and R’n’B high notes are something to behold and Michael Taibi as Rocky and a member of the dazzling dance ensemble. Choreographer Andy Kumar has an excellent appreciation of the history of 20th Century dance trends.
Happily, the hilarious aunties: Rina Fatania, Davina Perera and Sheena Patel and DJ Lovely played by Rakesh Boury are back even more outrageous and lovable than before.
Director Pravesh Kumar has fine-tuned an already good production into something truly great – a musical that matters and a top-class night out.
Britain’s Got Bhangra is on tonight (Friday) at 7.30pm and Saturday, matinee 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Details: 01923 225671