Growing up, holiday-time meant school vacation, dreidels and chocolate coins, presents, but also going to a Show. Sometimes the show was a classic one like the Nutcracker, but it also could've been whatever big musical was passing through town.
The idea of taking the family to a show at Christmas-time is pretty big tradition in France as well. The Rex movie theater puts on a special holiday spectacle with whatever kid-friendly film they're showing (this year, "Frozen", which my son saw as a special holiday school outing) and the Ballet de l'Opéra breaks out the biggest, costume-rich classic pieces in its répertoire (this year, Nureyev's "Sleeping Beauty," which my husband took my daughter to.) Since I didn't get to go to either of these, I decided to take both kids to a family friendly show here in Boulogne: "Bollywood Express".
The conceit of the show is that it's like a Bollywood film musical live on stage and it deliberately plays with all the tropes of that genre. The story focuses on a beautiful French-Indian journalist who goes to India for the first time to cover the opening of a famous producer's new film, "The Greatest Love Story Ever Told". What no one knows is that the producer has stolen the love story from another old film AND his films are being financed by a crime lord who once worked in a palace, but was thrown out after he was unjustly accused of stealing a valuable ring.
Does this sound convoluted? Because we are just getting started. While on her way to the movie studio, the journalist's phone is stolen by a pickpocket, but a a gallant passer-by gets it back for her. A passer-by she later meets at the movie studio auditioning for a role. The struggling actor convinces the journalist to drop everything and go on a whirlwind tour of India (the show deliberately mixes images of traditional and modern India in a "greatest hits" sort of way). Bien sûr, during the trip they fall in love, but she has to go back to France. Or does she?
Of course all this mishegas is an excuse for one musical number after another as the large cast of dancers portray everyone from Bollywood stars to pilgrims at a religious festival. The choreography, music and costumes are all stunning and the actors managed to interact with and energize the Boulogne audience like I've never seen. I'm not sure I can accurately describe how colorful this show is, in the pure sense of the term (the poster just gives a small taste).
Everything in the show is purposefully larger-than-live. The young lovers are Good and Beautiful, the crime lord is Evil, the movie producer and his choreographer are Comic Relief. Does it matter that the whole subplot with the producer's plagarized movie is dropped half-way through? Does it matter that the twist at the end which gives the lovers their Happy Ending makes no sense at all? (hint: it involves the missing royal ring) Not really. What matters is the music and dance and spectacle that takes the audience to another world.
Now, I'm not claiming this other world is the real India. I do realize that the over-the-top visuals and spectacular musical numbers have very little to do with everyday life there. It might even be politically incorrect to enjoy something that glosses over the country's very real social and political problems in favor of eye and ear candy.
Nevertheless, watching the eye-popping musical numbers and feeling the positive energy in the theater, I can only paraphrase the Icona Pop song: I don't care, I loved it! And so did the kids. Which reminded me of the power a live show can have to bring people together. Which is the whole point of Christmas shows in the first place, isn't it?
Happy Holidays, everyone!