Frankie Goes To Bollywood Shines At The Wolves Grand

2024 has been a good year for shows highlighting Indian cultural gems. Earlier this year saw the brilliant Bhangra Nation delighting audiences, and now ‘Frankie goes to Bollywood’ has arrived at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre as part of a UK tour. This show is a clever mixture of a traditional fun and frothy musical and also a cautionary tale of what happens when you sell your soul for the quick fix of stardom. It is also a visual and aural treat, with stunning scenery and costumes, and some incredible vocal performances.

Frankie goes to Bollywood (probably the best title this season) is the story of Frankie, a young girl obsessed with Bollywood movies, who, by a quirk of fate, gets the chance to become a Bollywood star herself. Her ‘a star is born’ rise to fame follows the pattern of many Hollywood movies – she is talented, but apart from her ambitious director Prem no-one really cares about that, instead the concern is more about her beauty and her ever skimpier costumes. Her leading man Raju King is the same man she watched and idolised as a child, and after meeting Malika, a glamorous, still young, but now put out to pasture screen queen, she realises that Bollywood is ruled by the men, for the men, and that maybe her dreams were actually nightmares.

Frankie is played by the stunning Laila Zaidi who is a real vocal talent. In all honesty, it is hard to feel anything for such a selfish individual, who is clearly happy to abandon everything for stardom, but their is no doubting Laila’s talent, she gives it her all in every scene. Much more sympathetic are the brilliant Helen K Wint as Malika, trying to cling on to both her dignity and her stardom, her killer line about ‘after the age of 30 you either get married, or play the mother of 50 year old actors’ is both horrifying and poignant, and her glamorous presence lights up every scene. Equally, I loved Katie Stasi as best friend, and conscience Goldy, who truly is the heart of this musical, and again has a stunning voice. Her voicemail songs are wonderful and heartfelt, she is the best friend that, quite frankly, Frankie does not deserve.

The male performances are also great, and often add a layer of hilarity, particularly in the more downbeat second half. I loved the bitchy, ostentatious Gigi Zahir as Shona, in charge of costumes, styling and choreography, and very adept at choosing the wining side. Shakil Hussain is brilliant as the ridiculous, ageing movie king Raju, trying to cling onto stardom and youth at any cost, while Navin Kundra is winning as Prem, who manages to hold onto his principles as those around him do their best to ruin his film and career.

Frankie goes to Bollywood is not perfect. The action often moves on very quickly, 3 months here, two months there, and it is full of every cliche you find in Hollywood, and Bollywood, rags to riches story.  It is also hard to really care what happens to such a selfish heroine. But it is clever to tell the story of a Bollywood heroine in the style of a Bollywood film, complete with the ridiculous, over dramatic ‘meet cutes’ and expressions of love, and the musical is, on the whole, fun and frothy with plenty of really funny moments. It also has a talented musical cast who help to make it a winner and it has its tongue firmly in cheek, while showing some sort observations of sexism, and ageism (but only for women) in one of the biggest film industries in the world.


12 Jun–15 Jun 2024

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