Get ready to dance Bhangra in the Osterhout Concert Theater as the “Taj Express” makes a stop at Binghamton University this Monday.
The traveling musical follows a young composer, Shankar, as he tries to make music like his idol, music producer A.R. Rahman. Through his journey, the musical explores the inner workings of Bollywood and the people behind the scenes of the largest film industry in the world.
Ninad Samaddar, who plays Shankar, said the musical is a “script within a script” as storylines go back and forth between Shankar and his musicians and characters Arjun and Kareena.
“[It highlights] how passion and soul can trump formal training in the field of arts in India and how progressing through good work experience is still regarded as the most honorable way of making a name in the industry/craft,” Samaddar wrote in an email.
While featuring some original music, the soundtrack to “Taj Express” mainly features Academy Award-winning music from Rahman, who composed songs such as “Jai Ho” from “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Marvel Anthem” for “Avengers: Endgame.” It also highlights tunes from older Bollywood films, such as “Tu Hi Re” and “Ishq Bina,” and modern Indian hits such as “Chammak Challo” and “Kala Chashma.”
Performers plan to make the musical interactive by encouraging the audience to chant and bring suggestions to the characters during situations.
“The play has been enhanced further by using relatable contemporary situations and jokes between the musicians and composers along with some audience-interaction moments,” Samaddar wrote. “The audience plays the role of a changing cast member every performance and allows ‘Taj [Express]’ to have and give a completely new and incredible experience every performance.”
Shruti Merchant, director of “Taj Express,” said the traveling cast has also built a sense of camaraderie that shows during their performances.
“What I enjoy most about the ‘Taj Express’ experience is the spirit of camaraderie and ensemble spirit that we all share at every new venue of this musical,” Merchant said. “The tour involves the entire cast and crew to sometimes travel, tech, show and pack up on consecutive days in completely foreign spaces and lands. Apart from my personal favorite feeling, the ‘transitions’ that the audience is privy to is one of the most incredible visuals of the play. The magic moments accompanied by the technical mastery between the two storylines of the play is a must-watch for all viewers.”
“Taj Express” will show on Monday, Nov. 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the Osterhout Concert Theater. Tickets range from $10 to $45.