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The Beautiful Princess
(Plus a little background to staging musicals in Pune in the Nineties)
The Beautiful Princess was the first in a series of musical shows that I wrote and staged in Pune in the 1990s. These were high energy events, attracting singers, dancers, actors, musicians, costume designers and technical crew, all giving their time and enthusiasm voluntarily. In other words, I was in the happy position of working with an almost unlimited pool of gifted theatrical talent. We were all sannyasins, living in, or near, what was originally called the Shree Rajneesh Ashram, which then became Osho Commune International, and which is now Osho Meditation Resort. The shows were never part of our designated work and were always rehearsed “after hours”, mostly at night, after the Evening Meeting. I was supported by Aneesha, my long-time friend, who is also a music composer and theatre addict, and also by Prasadam, who possessed an excellent talent for directing and inspiring the actors. Singers and dancers also had their own coaches, and, after 3-4 weeks rehearsal, it all came together at the last minute as a spectacular show, held in Meera Barn Theatre, running for five nights with an audience of 200 people per night. To be honest, none of the themes for these musicals was particularly profound, in terms of a message, but they were all immensely enjoyable. What appealed to me, more than anything, was the high energy nature of these creative events and the sheer rush of delight in presenting the finished show to a sannyasin audience. Sannyasins, I have to say, are the best audiences in the world! For the record, The Beautiful Princess was staged in 1991 and was inspired by a theatrical event that occurred a year earlier. At that time, I had agreed to co-direct a musical in Pune, written and composed by an American sannyasin called Sitara, whose home was in California. Her musical was called, appropriately enough, Hollywood Superstar, and it was the high energy nature of that show which inspired me to write my own series of musicals. Typically, I would get the concept for a show, write the dialogue for the actors and then write lyrics for songs, without really knowing what kind of music would fit. Sometimes, I had a rough idea of a tune, or at least a rhythm, but then a musician such as Aneesha would be needed to create the finished song. Aneesha composed most of the music for The Beautiful Princess. The storyline of this musical is a kind of Romeo and Juliet theme of two medieval barons, somewhere in Europe, who hate each other. Sure enough, the romantic, dreamy-eyed son of one of the barons falls in love with the beautiful daughter of the rival baron, and all hell breaks loose. Their fateful romance is presented as a play within a play: when the show opens, we are taken to a luxury mansion, just outside modern-day New York City, where the wife of a Wall Street businessman is writing a musical. At first, her husband scorns her creativity, but when there is a state-wide power blackout, she comforts him with her story by candlelight… and the show unfolds. Predictably enough, the story includes a time warp to Pune for final resolution.
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