For the first time, a Columbus theater is putting Bollywood and Indian culture front and center.
This week, a national tour of “Taj Express” will come to the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts. The performance will be presented through a partnership between the RiverCenter and Columbus Cultural Arts Alliance.
The production tells the love story of an unlikely pair — Kareena and Arjun. Arjun is a boy from the streets and Kareena is a famous actress. The musical has garnered international acclaim and earned unprecedented reviews for a Bollywood show. The show is “the first original Indian musical to have successfully completed 5 years of international touring,” according to a news release.
Norm Easterbrook, executive director of the River Center, said “Taj Express” will provide some new experiences at the theater.
“’Taj Express’ is loaded with action, romance, comedy and larger-than-life dance numbers set to India’s latest pop hits and its folk-music classics,” he said. “With Indian cuisine and free cultural activities for the family prior to the show, it is certain to be a colorful and prolific experience for all ages.”
In addition to bringing the production to the stage, the RiverCenter and Columbus Cultural Arts Alliance are partnering to bring cultural awareness through these extra enrichment activities before the show. Members of the cast will provide presentations on Indian music and musical instruments, as well as dance demonstrations and elements of fashion.
Unlike RiverCenter’s other preshow dinners, the dinner for “Taj Express” is themed and will feature cultural elements inspired by the production. The three-course meal will be catered by local Indian cuisine star Bombay Bay, and will feature multiple stations containing appetizers, a main course with vegetarian options, dessert, a specialty drink and an open bar.
The RiverCenter and Columbus Cultural Arts Alliance said they are looking forward to “Taj Express” setting a precedent that bringing diversity to Columbus’ theater scene is important.
“This is the first main-stage Indian Bollywood production of its kind in the Valley Area,” a news release said. “Dancing in 2,000 sparkling costumes within a lavish set for the first time in musical history, the production combines Bollywood music, dance, and film on stage. This production is a fusion of east and west, classical dance steps, pulsating modern music played on the finest of Indian classical instruments.”
If you go
What: Taj Express
When: 7:30 p.m. March 11
Where: Heard Theatre, RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, 900 Broadway
More to know: Additional programming begins at 4 p.m. with separate music and dance workshops and an instructional session on how to tie saris. These sessions are followed by a preshow dinner at 6 p.m. before the show begins at 7:30 p.m.