Last week, the London Coliseum hosted the world premiere of a brand new musical that has already won itself a legion of fans thanks to its release as a concept album earlier this year. Now, Rumi has debuted on the stage for two performances only - on one of the biggest stages in the West End, but could it fill such a huge space?
Created by Dana Al Fardan and Nadim Naaman, Rumi is based on a story about the 13th century philosopher and poet Rumi by Evren Sharma. It explores the transformative and powerful relationship between Rumi and his mentor Shams and is the second collaboration for the pair - their other show Broken Wings heads to the West End for a limited run in early 2022.
For this production, a cast has been assembled comprised entirelyof performers of Middle Eastern, North African and South Asian heritage. Led by West End and Broadway star Ramin Karimloo as Shams and co-creator Nadim Naaman as Rumi, the cast really are something special. The two actors display fantastic chemistry which allows their story to flourish with believability. Ramin is known for how incredible his voice is, but Nadim is right up there with him, creating goosebumps with big musical number 'Lightning'.
Casey Al-Shaqsy displays some fine acting as Kimya while Soophia Foroughi is sensational as Kara. Another standout for me was Ahmed Hamad who had one of the more complicated story-arcs as Aladdin. The remainder of the cast were all fantastic, helping to achieve the sense of grandeur the show required.
Undoubtedly, the greatest element of Rumi is the music itself. The glorious overture that begins the show, performed by a 29 piece orchestra, really highlight what an amazing piece of work this is. Quickly followed by one of the shows standout numbers 'I Saw The Sun' - the moment the cast sing in unison is incredibly powerful. Other highlights are 'When' and 'Somewhere' - two fantastic ballads which allow Casey and Soophia to showcase their immeasurable talents and duet 'Only Us'. With lyrics derived from Rumi's poetry, what transpires is some of the most clever and high quality musical theatre songs that have graced the West End stage in years.
It is important to state that this is really a work in progress. The problem is showcasing new work on a stage as vast as the London Coliseum can make it hard to fill. While the cast do a great job of it, there are moments where the stage does feel too big. A beautiful but simple looking set adds to this, though I imagine this will improve as the show continues in the future. While some members of the audience were already familiar with Rumi's story, if you weren't already aware, it may not have been as instantly accessible to you. Some of the choreography also felt slightly jarring and im certain scenes distracted from the music and emotion. One pivotal scene with Casey's Kimya would have had more impact had she had the stage to herself.
Ultimately this show has a lot of potential. The music is simply glorious. Performed by a sensational cast, these songs really come alive on the stage. While it may not be perfect yet, its early days for this show which clearly has a lot of potential. I expect we'll be seeing a lot more of Rumi, and I for one will be excited to see how this show progresses and grows.
The concept album of Rumi is available to listen to now. For information on the future of this show, keep an eye on https://twitter.com/rumi_musical
Photos by Jane Hobson