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Bombay Dreams b'day brings all new lead cast

The musical's new hero is Stephen Rahman-Hughes, the understudy of the original Akaash and Zehra Naqvi will play Priya.

india Updated: Dec 27, 2003 22:27 IST

Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bombay Dreams celebrated its first birthday this month. The birthday surprise for viewers was a change of most of the lead cast.

In what was one of the worst ever West End seasons, Lloyd Webber stunned cynics by investing £250,000 in recasting and has announced a new booking period through to March 2004.

The new hero of the musical is Stephen Rahman-Hughes, the understudy of the original Akaash. With training mainly in dance, Stephen told Hindustan Times.com's UK Bureau that at first the directors were a bit concerned that he did not have an acting background. "But I picked it up very fast."

Stephen, with a Malaysian Muslim mother and a great grandfather from India, does not know much Hindi. But his enthusiasm has given his character in the musical a fresh appeal.

A brown-eyed handsome young man, Stephen says that he would definitely consider Bollywood films if the offer comes to him. He informed that he did audition for Gurinder Chaddha's remake of Pride and Prejudice. But he said, he has to learn the Hindi language, which is now a priority for him. Since his involvement with Bombay Dreams, Stephen believes it is time for him to visit India, specifically Mumbai. He has only visited India once before, on holiday.

The role of Priya is being played by Zehra Naqvi, whose family is from Amroh in Uttar Pradesh. Related to the famous film maker Kamal Amrohi she said: "Pakeezah is my all-time favourite film." She was the understudy of the original Priya.

The role of Rani, the voluptuous film actress is being played by TV presenter Sophiya Haque. But the original Rani played by Ayesha Dharkar is definitely being missed and so is the melodious voice of Priya Kalidas, the original Priya.

Dalip Tahil as Priya's father is replaced by Ravin J Ganatra. For most who have seen the original cast still miss the stage presence of Tahil.

The one constant and most loveable character of the eunuch, Sweetie, is still being played by Raj Ghatak. His role has constantly won him a lot of praise. His is definitely a tough act to replace.

Bombay Dreams, since its opening last year has already been seen by 650,000 people in London and the cast recording, which has been very successful in India, has become the Gold Album in the UK with sales in excess of 100,000. AR Rahman is the first composer in over a decade to have written a musical with original new music that is a success.

Bombay Dreams is now also getting ready to travel to New York - with - hold your breath - an all-white cast and now imagine Bombay with an all-white population. Pretty unimaginable!

First Published: Dec 27, 2003 22:27 IST