How ‘The Best of Alyque’ will be brought to stage

NICHOLA PAIS gets insights from the stellar team bringing ‘The Best of Alyque’ to the stage, on the occasion of Padamsee’s birthday

Come Saturday, April 20, a large chunk of the city’s most hefty theatrical talent will be onstage, paying homage to ‘God’, as the late theatre great and adman Alyque Padamsee, was only half-jokingly referred to. ‘The Best of Alyque’, presented on the occasion of his birthday, brings excerpts from some of Padamsee’s best plays and musicals including Macbeth, Broken Images, Jesus Christ Superstar and more.

It’s bound to be a high—both performance-wise and emotionally—for his many actors as well as his daughter and ACE Productions’ head honcho Raell Padamsee. Practical as ever, Raell however maintains, “This was a very pragmatic decision which we took to pay homage to him, his work, his vision… Actually, I had done a series of video interviews with him on his work in the theatre, the marvel and madness behind the maverick and we have been able to use all this footage in ‘The Best Of Alyque’ where Dad explains his raison d’être. It’s quite interesting because it feels like he’s so much a part of the show, right there with us. I know he’s ecstatic. This is what he would have loved.”

How ‘The Best of Alyque’ will be brought to stage

Most of the scenes and songs presented in ‘The Best Of Alyque’ showcase the original cast from the plays. So, there’s Shiamak Davar and Delna Mody performing to songs from ‘Cabaret’. On its heels comes a scene from ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’  enacted by DalipTahil and Sabira Merchant, Karla Singh and Sharon Prabhakar in a hilarious setting from ‘The Odd Couple’, Siddharth Meghani performing a song from ‘Man of La Mancha’, followed by Dolly Thakore and Farrokh Mehta enacting a gripping scene from ‘Death Of A Salesman’, Shabana Azmi enacting a small scene from ‘Broken Images’, and Gerson Da Cunha and Sabira Merchant enacting a scene from ‘The Taming Of The Shrew’, among many others.

No doubts about it—Mr Padamsee will be loving it, and so will his stupendous cast… Devieka Bhojwani goes down rewind road, recalling how Alyque had seen her in Godspell and kept her in mind for a special role that he created in the musical, Jesus Christ Superstar. “He wrote in the role and composed a song together with Noel Godin—“My Son, My Son.” They took a melody from the musical and adapted it, writing lyrics that would fit the role of the Virgin Mary. This was life-changing for me. Rex Lobo, who was a pianist, was also the music director and Gussie whose last name I forget, played the guitar to go with the song. The impact was so immediate and so strong that nuns were weeping in the theatre and priests were talking about it.” We have witnessed this performance and yes, it is pure lump-in-the-throat.

How ‘The Best of Alyque’ will be brought to stage

Dolly Thakore, theatre actress and casting director who had been married to Alyque, remembers the part she last performed—Linda Loman on May 16, 1982. “I had to use heavy whitener and dark pencil to create wrinkles and dark circles…now it’s all natural!” she smiles. “After almost every show there was not a dry eye in the audience,” she shares. She recalls being very uncomfortable playing Honey “with chest-heaving and sighing like Marilyn Monroe in ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’. “We would argue about it. On opening night I did it my way. And Alyque was very pleasantly surprised and gushed over my interpretation of it….I loved the sincere respect he shared,” she recalls.

For Sharon Prabhakar, wife of the theatre doyen, performing her incredible song from ‘Evita’ is goosebump-inducing every single time. “Alyque crafted the role with a magnifying glass. Every nuance, every inflection, every emotion was pieced together by him,” she shares, adding that he pushed the envelope constantly. “Every show needed to be better than the last one. So I remember the continuous process of rehearsals, the re- examining of the staging, the editing and re-editing of the scenes. He was a man possessed…but look at the outcome!”

Farrokh Mehta, who calls Alyque, “my friend, my director,” points out that he and Alyque had been the only constants in the cast of ‘Salesman’–four productions spanning nearly 20 years. “When we discussed the last production, we both felt we had grown – or rather, aged the characters of Willie and Charlie. From being somewhat competitive, argumentative neighbours we had evolved into two old friends, real friends, without any sentimentality. Friends in deed, not just words.”

The memories bubble over, as professional and personal ties merge… Raell cannot forget her father making her climb onto a bookshelf at home, to bring in the required tone of fear for her role in ‘Miss Julia’, like she will always remember the surprise he delivered on her 18th birthday—a red car wrapped in bow, so she could independently drive around. “He was a very kind and loving father, extremely big on women’s empowerment and insisted that I should stand on my own two feet financially at a young age. I think that’s what gave me the impetus to start my own company at the age of 22.”

Devieka sums up the phenomenon summarising, “Alyque was an amazing guy. He knew exactly what he wanted and he knew exactly how to get it out of a person. He had the gift of moulding people completely.”

That gift will unwrap its delightful contents all over again on stage…

What: ‘The Best of Alyque’

When: April 20, 2019

Where: Tata Theatre NCPA

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