Review: Half & Half: The Curry Musical @ WMC
Tinderbox Alley - Half 'n' Half: The Curry Musical
Western Studio, Wales Millennium Centre
Wednesday 14th October 2015
The term "half and half" appears to be big around this part of the world, like some sort of culinary code for gluttony. As a local to Cardiff, the idea of having rice and chips with a curry sounds extravagant and just something to have after a proposed drinking session (drink responsibly).
After pies and throat slitting in Sweeney Todd, the foodie theme continues in Tim Riley's new musical. Set on Cowbridge Road East in the late 80s, at the Taj Mahal Curry House, owner Ali from Bangladesh is faced with the dilemma of who he will leave his establishment to: Rafiq, an experienced waiter but not a blood relative or Khan, his nephew in need of the experience. In comes, Mr. Bajar the Pakistani opportunist, hell bent on obtaining a valuable dish, owned by Ali. Calamity shortly ensues...
The songs should be judged first in any musical. Riley's are not the most dynamic ever written, but "The Customer Is Always Right" was a catchy tune, stating why you should treat them with respect (they are paying after all). Some lyrics were expectedly poor. Ali singing "I'm as mixed up as Bombay mix", really takes the biscuit. A ballad about how curry is close to the heart, had me whistle in disbelief. The band were decent, with tabla drums, an authentic addition to the score. The humour though did wain at times, in a weird sort of Welsh, sub-continental way.
Ashley Alyman as Ali did portray a decent father figure, having run the curry house for years. The eternal Boyd Clack, who appears in practically any show in Wales, was his usual "matter of fact self", as Fat Frank, their best customer. Ralph Birtwell playing Mr. Bajar as a cowboy wannabe, but a mild annoyance if truth be told. Adrian Quinton as a envious Khan, at times nasty and a thickener to the plot. Oliver Gyani doing Rafiq, with a super singing voice and general sense of timing, humour and emotion. As Mr. Bajar's daughter, Aryana Ramkhalawon is a forced tomboy, falling for Rafiq and singing sweet songs with her Brummie accent.
The story is easy to follow, but lacking in any gut busting moments of humour or inspiration. A few nods back to the genocide of Bangladeshis by Pakistan, is a hard sell in this happy go lucky musical. The heat in the Western Studio also making us feel as if we were in the sub-content. The set conveying an Indian restaurant atmosphere, but the few tables at the front for the audience to sit are futile (no one told us we could sit there).
This musical left me hungry for curry and a better show.
Rating: 2 stars
Note from Weeping Tudor: "Like my namesake, a brand new theatre company is to be born. Weeping Tudor Productions shall stage rare, new and LGBT+ works. You can donate here via Kickstarter for our inaugural piece, Medusa's Trap by Erik Satie. Find out more in my article on theSprout here."
Image credit: Wales Millennium Centre