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BWW Review: RUMI: THE MUSICAL, London Coliseum


A powerful and articulate production, starring Ramin Karimloo and Nadim Naaman

BWW Review: RUMI: THE MUSICAL, London Coliseum BWW Review: RUMI: THE MUSICAL, London Coliseum

The teachings, poems and philosophy of Rumi have been celebrated across the world for centuries. In fact, his work is often referenced by 21st-century scholars and philosophers, proving that both his legacy and his message are eternal. As such, it's hardly surprising that his story has found its way onto the stage in Rumi: The Musical.

Written by Dana Al Fardan (music and lyrics) and Nadim Naaman (book, music and lyrics), the musical initially enjoyed great success as a concept album, released in July of this year. With over 100,000 Spotify streams under its belt, the musical finds a new (temporary) home at the London Coliseum for its world premiere. Here, the 18-strong cast, led by the dynamic Ramin Karimloo and Namman, transport audiences back to 11th-century Konya in a production that is nothing short of phenomenal.

While there are many moments within the life of Rumi that the writers could have chosen to focus on, the musical explores his passionate relationship with mentor Shams-i-Tabrizi (Karimloo). Shams' unique outlook on philosophy challenged everything Rumi perceived to be true. Their relationship had a direct impact on Rumi's work moving forward, but also brought tension and disruption into his family home.

Throughout the production, it is evident that great care has been taken to tell this story in the way it deserves to be told. The score, per its creators, combines "Middle Eastern authenticity with classical influences and contemporary musical theatre." Every performer to grace the stage is of Middle Eastern, North African or South Asian heritage, and they are accompanied beautifully by the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra.

From the moments the lights go up on this semi-staged production, this story is brought to life in a way that feels truly authentic. The diversity of both the cast and the stories being shared are a testament to the fact that we need more of these stories on our stages.

While the entire ensemble performs seamlessly, Naaman is quietly charismatic in his thoughtful portrayal of Rumi. He is nicely complemented by Karimloo, whose portrayal of Shams is truly spectacular, especially within the show-stopping song "Sham's Departure". Casey Al-Shaqsy and Soophia Foroughi also give notable performances as Kimya (Rumi's Daughter) and Kara (his wife). Their duet "Somewhere" is the highlight.

One of the finer points of the production is the choreography from Anjali Mehra. Inspired by traditional Middle Eastern dance styles, it draws a strong emotional response from the audience - giving the ensemble a chance to tell stories through movement as opposed to simply their words.

While the show does have some pacing issues (particularly in the first act), it picks up quickly, and the stellar performances keep us engaged. There's no doubt that a fully staged production of Rumi: The Musical will be back to grace the West End in the future. Likewise, audiences can also expect more groundbreaking work from writer-duo Dana Al Fardan and Nadim Naaman.

Rumi: The Musical at London Coliseum until 24 November

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From This Author Abbie Grundy