Top 10 South Asian-Inspired Theatre Musicals

Join us as we explore the top ten must-know theatre musicals showcasing inclusive talent and South Asian culture.

Top 10 South Asian Inspired Theatre Musicals - f

Her desire for fame and fortune becomes overwhelming.

Musicals have become more inclusive, showcasing talent influenced by South Asian culture.

There is an array of stunning South Asian musicals that display themes of love, loyalty, and heartbreak.

South Asian musicals feature influences ranging from classical Kathak and Bhangra to modern-day Western stylistic twists.

It is important to highlight the achievements of these great musicals, as they may go unnoticed amongst the more recognised musicals in the West End and Broadway.

In the South Asian musical scene, there are several award-winning directors and writers.

Bombay Dreams

Top 10 South Asian-Inspired Theatre Musicals - 1An unforgettable, impactful, and wonderfully fantastic story, created by Indian composer A.R. Rahman and produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

It follows the story of Akaash, a young slum dweller with huge dreams of becoming a movie star, as he ventures into the unfamiliar and dazzling world of film.

Along the way, he falls in love with the beautiful Priya, the daughter of one of Bollywood’s greatest film directors, providing a deep insight into the contrasting lifestyles—from the sparkling fantasy of Bollywood movies to the grittiness of Bombay life.

The original production opened in June 2002 and closed in 2004, also enjoying a run on Broadway from April 2004 to January 2005.

Bombay Superstar

Top 10 South Asian-Inspired Theatre Musicals - 2Written and directed by Samir Bhamra, Bombay Superstar is a dazzling Bollywood musical, bursting with explosive colours, music, and romance.

Released in 2022, it immerses audiences in the vibrant soundtracks of Bollywood songs from the ’70s and ’80s, bringing the magic of the Bollywood widescreen to life on stage!

Bombay Superstar draws inspiration from the films and songs of Bollywood legends like Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha, weaving a captivating tale of Laila and Sikander—star-crossed lovers whose paths intertwine in blockbuster musicals.

These narratives are rich with heroism, as the valiant hero wears his heart on his sleeve, embarking on daring rescues of damsels navigating the treacherous streets of Bombay.

But the question lingers: Amidst the trials they face, can the intense love between Laila and Sikander continue to flourish?

Bhangra Nation

Top 10 South Asian-Inspired Theatre Musicals - 3Bhangra Nation is a bright, bouncy, and light-hearted production that first graced the stage in San Diego in 2022 and has since been reworked for its UK premiere.

Most recently, it dazzled audiences at the Birmingham Rep in February 2024, under the direction of Stafford Arima, with music and lyrics by Sam Willmott.

The narrative centres around a university Bhangra dance team’s journey to compete in the national dance competition.

However, the plot thickens as Preeti and Mary find themselves at odds over their interpretations of what Bhangra signifies to them.

The production delves into the struggle of maintaining stylistic integrity to their culture while also seeking to captivate new audiences through modernising their dance.

Frankie Goes to Bollywood

Top 10 South Asian-Inspired Theatre Musicals - 4From the makers of Britain’s Got Bhangra, a new musical is born!

Inspired by the book written by Pravesh Kumar, with songs by Niraj Chag and Tasha Taylor Johnson, this musical is set to grace various theatres in the UK from April to July 2024.

Follow the beautiful story of Frankie, who embarks on a journey filled with romance, song, and dance!

Drawing inspiration from real stories of British women venturing into Bollywood, this musical explores the gripping struggle of Frankie.

As she navigates her way through Bollywood, she faces an internal battle.

Her desire for fame and fortune becomes overwhelming, yet she harbours a certain reluctance as she ascends the ladder of success. This raises the question: Can she stay true to herself?

Amidst a tale of heroes and villains, the narrative of what it means to be British in Bollywood unfolds.

Glitterball

Top 10 South Asian-Inspired Theatre Musicals - 5Written by Yasmin Wilde and directed by Pravesh Kumar, Glitterball is a breathtaking musical that was nominated for three Offies: Set Design, Most Promising Playwright, and Production.

It was featured in theatres across the UK in 2022 and was widely received as humorous and incredibly entertaining.

This dazzling showcase follows Sonia’s story, highlighting her cross-cultural influences from Shirley Bassey to Bhangra.

She is half-white and half-brown and is navigating through a mid-life crisis.

A surprising turn of events occurs when a half-brother, previously unknown to her, appears out of the blue.

Sonia bravely dives into a journey of self-discovery through music and family.

MUSHY: Lyrically Speaking

Top 10 South Asian-Inspired Theatre Musicals - 6Written by Pravesh Kumar and the award-winning British rapper Raxstar, MUSHY: Lyrically Speaking hit UK theatres in 2019.

This gripping musical is inspired by the true story of Musharaf Asghar’s life.

The narrative unfolds around a boy whose voice has been metaphorically taken from him.

A sympathetic teacher makes it her mission to help him reclaim it.

Desperate to find his voice and his place in the world, Mushy faces a significant obstacle: his stammer.

This impediment does more than prevent him from speaking; it makes him feel like an outsider, unable to express himself.

However, a pivotal moment arrives when he finds himself in the spotlight on prime-time television.

The nation watches, riveted, as he discovers the ability to communicate through music.

Featuring rap and lyrical narration, this heartwarming musical captivates audiences with its powerful message and emotive storytelling.

Miss Meena and The Masala Queens

Top 10 South Asian-Inspired Theatre Musicals - 7This musical, inspired by British Asian drag, hit theatres in the UK in 2017.

It uncovers the story of men who have their day jobs but, by night, star in eccentric dancing on stage with dazzling costumes and bright lights.

The men dress up in glittery saris and perform Bollywood lip-sync dances.

However, for one queen, Miss Meena, this suddenly becomes a distant memory.

The once adored and beloved queen has now lost her shine and, like her nightclub, she’s become outdated and forgotten.

The pressure becomes apparent, as well as property developers on the horizon, looking to convince Miss Meena to give up her club.

There may be a glimpse of hope, but a visitor from the past shakes things up again!

A theme in the musical is the importance of family and loyalty.

Laila The Musical

Top 10 South Asian-Inspired Theatre Musicals - 8A collaboration between writer-director Pravesh Kumar and composer Sumeet Chopra, Laila The Musical was presented in theatres across the UK in 2016.

Set in modern-day Bradford, the story begins as Laila seeks shelter from a terrible storm and finds herself in an antique bookshop.

There, she stumbles upon a book bearing her name.

For some reason, she is drawn to it and, to her surprise, finds that she can resonate with the story within.

Consumed by the narrative, she sees herself in it—a tale of the elegant classic Indian story of two star-crossed lovers, Laila and Majnu.

It’s a tale about fate and feuding families, given a modern musical twist.

The production incorporates Western influences with Sufi stylistic choices, creating a unique blend of cultures and traditions.

Bend It Like Beckham

Top 10 South Asian-Inspired Theatre Musicals - 9Based on the smash-hit movie, now remade for the West End. The musical hit theatres in the UK in 2016.

It is directed by Gurinder Chadha, the director and co-writer of the movie, and features music by the Emmy, Brit, and BAFTA award-winning Howard Goodall.

This delightful musical comedy boasts big characters and introduces a brand new score with a Punjabi influence.

The musical centres on a teenager named Jess, who faces a culture clash between adhering to her traditional Indian family’s expectations and her dreams of playing football professionally.

While playing football with friends, she is spotted and, to her delight, given the chance to join a team!

However, as her sister’s wedding approaches, complications arise, and Jess is forced to make some difficult choices.

Should she follow her passion or abide by her family’s wishes?

Monsoon Wedding

Top 10 South Asian-Inspired Theatre Musicals - 10Directed by the award-winning filmmaker Mira Nair, Monsoon Wedding comes to life as an exuberant new musical adaptation. It graced the stages of London in 2021.

The musical opens with the vibrant celebrations in Delhi, unfolding over four days to mark the arranged marriage of Aditi and Hemant.

Aditi, hailing from an upper-middle-class family in India, is their only daughter.

However, a culture clash becomes evident with her soon-to-be husband, who is from an Indian-American family in New Jersey.

As the story progresses, the situation escalates.

The bride finds herself in an affair, her father faces a dire financial crisis, and deep, dark family secrets come to light.

These musicals are timeless and memorable, skilfully weaving concepts of South Asian culture with Western influence.

Through the medium of theatre, audiences are increasingly drawn to musicals that may be outside their usual experiences, finding in them a space where they can escape and discover enjoyment.



Kamilah is an experienced actress, radio presenter and qualified in Drama & Musical Theatre. She loves debating and her passions include arts, music, food poetry and singing.

Images courtesy of Bombay Dreams, The New Wolsey Theatre, Birmingham Rep, New Theatre, Rifco Theatre Company, Arcola Theatre and Vulture.




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