Musicals for children have certainly come a long way. So have children for that matter. “Tea With Chachaji” with book and lyrics by Gwynne Watkins with Music by Denver Casado based on the book “Chachaji’s Cup” by Uma Krishnaswami with illustrations by Souyma Sitaraman is a prime example. It is a total family musical. Meaning it is about family and for families. An hour long excursion into the legends and heart and soul of India that is fun, intelligent, imaginative, inspirational and informative.
In its 14th season of presenting shows based on children’s literature – Making Books Sing is an organization that should be commended and applauded and better known. They do extraordinary work as witnessed by “Tea With Chachaji” a five character musical filled with the colors and rhythms of India that amazes and inspires.
Neel (Raja Burrows) a ten year old boy who lives in Jackson Heights with his mother (Stephanie Klemons) and great uncle Chachaji (Tony Mirrcandani) who shares stories (some happy; some sad) after tea – with a special teacup that his mother Anya (Soneela Nankani) bravely brought from India when the country was divided in two after the Partition of 1947 – wants desperately to be a Bollywood star and a doctor – living six months in America and six months in India. His best friend Daniel (Jose Sepulveda) is a Latino and basketball fanatic. It is the collision of these two world’s that make up this fascinating and conflicted story told with lively song and dance – directed and choreographed by Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj with video projections by Cory Einbinder that complement the tale of the tea cup.
Raja Burrows is completely believable as the young boy who turns 13 in the course of the hour long presentation. He is lively, has a clear voice and manages to mature before our eyes. The teller of the tales, Mr. Mirrcandani has a deep soothing voice that is perfect for the role of the storyteller explaining to Neel and to us that “until someone we know needs help, you do not know what we can do” – our capabilities are discovered when we need them most. A wonderful lesson to be learned. Jose Sepulveda is a charmer who tries his best to understand a foreign culture while sharing his with Neel. Both women are beautiful in their look and manner – urging us to be strong and to study hard so that we can achieve our dreams without “breaking”.
Traditions, obligations, determination and discovery of ancestry are all part of this wonderfully imagined story.
See www.makingbookssing.org for February performance schedule in Manhattan, Brooklyn and California. Tickets $16.00