As with so many western films, Bollywood has taken a beloved smash and turned it into a stage musical. Aditya Chopra’s “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge” opened in 1995 and is still playing in a theater in Mumbai, India, still popular thanks to toe-tapping songs that grabbed audiences from the start and a charismatic lead pair (Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol). The film seems to have created a built-in audience for the stage version, “Come Fall in Love,” now playing its Old Globe premiere in San Diego on its way to Broadway.
The opening overture (the film’s composers are replaced here by duo Vishal-Sheykhar) includes snippets of the Hindi hit. Moving the story from cold and gray London to cold and gray Boston, the tuner opens on Baldev (Irvine Iqbal) who runs a small shop catering to racists and jerks, seemingly. He is saving up money for a venture he and his partner have set up in India called Maharaja Tours.
Cue bright lights denoting sunshine and a projection of a warm mustard field (a central theme in the film) in the opening number “So Far.” Iqbal has a pleasant voice and gives a nice start to the proceedings.
Back in Baldev’s shop we meet Rog (Austin Colby), a rich Harvard student who is a classmate of Baldev’s oh-so-desi daughter, Simran (Shoba Narayan). She thinks he’s a jerk, especially after one of his stunts gets her arrested. But she plans to forget him soon enough, since Simran gets a one-month vacation in Europe before she is to be married off to her father’s Indian partner. (Even in 1995 this plot was creaky.)
We are also introduced to Rog and Simran’s parents — Kate Loprest as the scene-stealing mom Minky and Jeremy Kushnier as father Roger Mandel Sr., with the fine-voiced Rupal Pujara as Lajjo, Simran’s mother.
Later, in Europe with her friends Cookie and Ben (Hannah Jewel Kohn and Juice Mackins), Simran is jarred by the presence of Rog, who has been invited by Cookie. The production skimps on sets here as we see projections of London’s Pancreas Station, Paris’ Eiffel Tower and landmarks from the other European capitals that the group tours on a train.
Our love interests disembark to see an Einstein museum, apparently because Simran is just such a nerd, but afterward they miss the train and are forced to share the lone room in a Swiss hotel. While most of “Come Fall in Love” has middling musical numbers by Vishal Dadlani and Sheykhar Ravjiani, the song “Like You That Way” has a lot of promise and is sung with verve by Colby and Narayan. Also catchy are “Desi Kudi” and “Hot and Independent and Hot,” featuring Loprest, Colby, Kinshuk Sen as Kuljit the Indian fiancé, and the ensemble.
After falling in love, Simran and Rog go their separate ways, she to her arranged marriage in India and he to cry to his mother. Conveniently she is also going to India to invest in Maharaja Tours, and Rog accompanies her to win back her love.
After an intermission the story moves to the mustard fields of Punjab, India, and again snippets of songs from the “Dilwale” film taunt us with a better version of this story. Although Simran wants to elope with Rog, he says he wants to earn her father’s approval. Several song-and-dance numbers later, we can guess how this will turn out.
The dances are among the best parts of “Come Fall in Love,” and Colby’s moves, especially his vertical leap, are impressive. Of the cast, the best singer is Pujara, though the rest have solid voices. Linda Cho’s costumes, meanwhile, are fantastic, with bright colors for the sarees and Punjabi suits that still allow the ensemble to dance nimbly.
Overall, “Come Fall in Love” underwhelms — you’re more likely to fall in like than love. Although the songs are direct translations from the Hindi version, the music could be catchier, and the cast could hone their performances further in order to entice either Bollywood fans or curious newcomers to fork over Broadway ticket prices.