Principle Cast Announced for Rifco Theatre’s Frankie Goes to Bollywood

Rifco Theatre Company in partnership with Watford Palace Theatre and HOME Manchester is delighted to announce the headline cast for its most spectacular and ambitious musical to date.

Laila Zaidi (Clem in ‘Little Bits Of Light’ (National Theatre, London); Charlie in ‘The Selfish Giant’ (Vaudeville Theatre, London’s West End); Tassita in ‘Starlight Express’ (The Other Palace Theatre, London); Maria in ‘West Side Story’ At Shakespeare’s 400th Anniversary (RSC); Rosalia in ‘West Side Story’ BBC Proms), plays the title role of Frankie. Frankie feels alone and wishes she had a family. She loves watching Bollywood films because they remind her of her mother and a place where she can belong. As she climbs up the ladder of stardom, she realises that she has to sacrifice more and more of herself to get to the top.

Helen K. Wint (Bronco Billy (Charing Cross); Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (Wyndhams); Dirty Dancing (UK Tour); One Night of Tina (UK Tour); Dancing in the Streets (UK tour); Daddy Cool (Shaftesbury); plays Malika, Malika is a Bollywood starlet who knows that her reign is limited. She has made it to the top by playing the game and now waits for the right opportunity to make her next move in this ruthless world of men.

Shakil Hussain (BBC One’s ‘We Hunt Together’ Sky One’s ‘Gang’s of London’, BBC’s ‘Boat Story’, ITV’s ‘Emmerdale’ Amazon Prime’s ‘Riches’) plays Raju King. Raju is known as the King of Bollywood and has reigned for over 25 years. He has done whatever he needed to maintain his position at the top and has many dark secrets. Raju loves fame, adoration, and power

Gigi Zahir (multi-disciplinary drag artist, actor, singer Crayola the Queen, Antonio/Trinculo in TEMPEST at The Pleasance, and Becky Biro in the solo black comedy FAME WHORE at The King’s Head. nominated for Best Newcomer at the UK Pantomime Awards in 2023) plays Shona Chatterji. Shona (they/them) is the most sought-after choreographer in the industry. They will do whatever it takes to survive and stay at the top, and the secrets they know will keep them there. If they like you, they can be a great friend.

Navin Kundra (six number one singles in the Asian Charts and winner of “Entertainer of the Year Award” at the House of Commons, a “British Soap Award” at the ITV Soap Awards and the “Stardust Global Icon Award” for Outstanding Achievement in Music), plays Prem Kapoor. Prem is an independent filmmaker who comes from a family of filmmakers. He wants to prove himself and change the world with his stories, but he feels lost in the world of mediocre Bollywood cinema.

Katie Stasi (Roles We’ll Never Play (Union Theatre), Dick Whittington (Stanley Arts Theatre), Wizard of Oz (Theatre Royal Winchester), Betty Blue Eyes (Union Theatre), No For an Answer (Arcola Theatre) plays Goldy Singh. Goldy is Frankie’s cousin and friend who works with her at the cinema. She dreams big but struggles to take action. She is desperate to increase her Instagram followers and thinks it is the key to fame.

Conceived by Artistic Director of Rifco, Pravesh Kumar MBE, ‘Frankie Goes to Bollywood ‘is a spectacular all-singing-all-dancing tale of heroes and villains, with all the costumes and the spectacle of a Bollywood feature film. It tells the tale of being British in Bollywood and explores what it takes to get to the top.

The musical will premiere at Watford Palace Theatre, running from Thu 25 Apr – Sat 11 May 2024 followed by a 10-day run at HOME Manchester Wed 15 May – Sat 25 May 2024, and then a national tour.

Frankie never wanted to be a star, all she’s ever really wanted is a close and loving family – but after a chance encounter with an up-and-coming director, she finds herself transported to Bollywood, cast in a movie and thrust into the limelight. Might the Bollywood world provide her with the family and community she has always dreamed of? Suddenly Frankie is immersed in the world of fame and fortune but as she climbs the sparkling staircase of stardom, each step makes her question what she is willing to do, or be subjected to, for success.

Drawing inspiration from both traditional Bollywood music and the best of western musical theatre, the music for Frankie goes to Bollywood is a carefully integrated hybrid – designed to appeal to lovers of the Bollywood genre and also lovers of a good old West End extravaganza.

Bollywood as an industry generates over £2 billion a year, and globally the films have an audience of 1.3billion. In the UK a successful Bollywood film can be expected to take as much as £4 million – so it’s little wonder that the glamorous lure of Bollywood stardom appeals to many British-South Asian young people.

Frankie goes to Bollywood is inspired by those true stories of young men and women who make the journey to India to become Brits in Bollywood.

Alongside a couple of very well-known faces in Bollywood who hold British citizenship including Katrina Kaif and Alia Bhatt, there are also dozens more actors, both male and female born in Britain who have established successful careers. Frankie goes to Bollywood is inspired by many of their stories, and by Pravesh’s own experience of being a Brit in Bollywood, and by what he observed in terms of British-born women’s experience in the industry.

Pravesh says “A lot of the story is about a question of belonging. In some ways in the UK, British born South Asian people, will still forever be seen by many as immigrants, no matter how many generations their families have lived in Britain. So forging a career in Bollywood, be that in front of or behind the camera can be seen by those who go out there, as somewhat of a homecoming. But then, being British born, and new to a lot of the culture, many of the women who go to work in the industry become acutely aware of the deeply ingrained sexism, not just within the industry itself, but displayed on screen. And that’s something they have to address and decide how much of that disparity they can put up with.”
“I wanted to highlight this issue, because as the world fights the good fight for increased equality between genders, it’s men’s responsibility to shine a light on sexism, and to call it out when they see it – at work, amongst their friends, and in the wider world.
I love Bollywood fiercely and this musical is at heart, a celebration of the genre and the art and the people involved. But that doesn’t mean I’m not still hoping and pushing for change. So my hope is that is this work a celebration of Bollywood, but at the same time, a small catalyst for improved social standing for women in the industry, both behind-the-scenes, and how they are portrayed on the silver screen.”

Rifco Theatre has a long tradition of working to celebrate and reflect contemporary British Asian experiences, culture and society. Pravesh’s own experience working for a decade in Bollywood, alongside his extensive work in UK theatre and film looking at the British South Asian experience plays a fundamental role in the development of Rifco’s productions and subject matter, focusing on untold stories and under-represented voices. In ‘Frankie goes to Bollywood’ Rifco have created a multi-layered piece of theatre. On one level it offers a sumptuous British spin on the glorious visual and romantic stories of Bollywood; a breathtakingly colourful journey of romance, sweeping songs and vibrant dance; the big, bold explosion of movement, colour and music that ‘Bollywood’ immediately brings to mind. Yet this is juxtaposed against an exploration of the darker undercurrent within the culture. Frankie Goes to Bollywood delves into the influence the film industry has on society’s views of women, both in India and for the 4 million South Asian residents of the UK.

Pravesh Kumar says “A strong theme throughout my work has been platforming the experiences of working class British South Asians, and I really drew on my inside knowledge of Bollywood in this case. Frankie Goes To Bollywood is absolutely a celebration of everything that is glorious and spectacular about Bollywood and Indian heritage but I also wanted to bring to light the often-formidable circumstances young women face in particular. It was important to me to draw attention to, and question certain elements about the culture. These include the double standards regarding modesty and the large and uncomfortable age difference between the male and female performers. Throughout my life and career, I have developed a huge love for Bollywood and its traditions but want my plays to have a realistic point of view and analysis alongside the celebratory element. And I think it’s vital that, as artists, we keep questioning and holding up a mirror to society.”

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