A lot of my past and present students are involved in the recent production of Sita Ram at the Harris Theater. I was excited to see them and this long-running project. Ten years ago, when I was the principal at the Choir Academy of the Chicago Children’s Choir, Josephine Lee, Director of the Chicago Children’s Choir had commissioned Jai Uttal to compose the music for this musical Ramayana and David Kersnar of Lookingglass Theater to direct this production (Kersnar also worked on many of the lyrics with Uttal). There were excerpts and small concerts of the music through the years. It was clear today that the word to describe this present production is BIG.
From the opening, it felt like one was in the Big Top. There was singing and dancing and flying acrobatics with nearly 200 colorfully clad performers on stage or in the aisles of the theater at any given time. The band was in the rear center stage under a set of scaffolding which crossed the stage. The show was dazzling to watch and listen to, filled with high energy and belting melodies. The music featured Indian, hip hop, rock and roll music. Even Faure’s Libera Domine and a South African Sotho Song was woven into this musical. One felt like one was truly experiencing an epic.
Sita Ram is the result of the collaboration between The Chicago Children’s Choir under the direction of Josephine Lee, David Kersnar of Lookingglass Theater, and the Natya Dance Company directed by Krithika Rajagopalan. Azeeza Desai Khan is the costume designer and the Inappropriate Theater Company added many of the acrobatics.
This show is a modern interpretation of the Ramayana, an Indian epic depicting Rama’s journey in 24,000 verses. The production moves from Sita and Rama’s love through their eventual separation by the evil Ravanna and concludes with Ravanna’s redemption and Sita and Rama coming together again after bringing world harmony and peace. It ends with a message that this power of love comes from within.
It was wonderful to see some of my students, as members of the Chicago Children’s Choir and the Natya Dance Company, as part of this theatrical celebration. Bravo to all for this musically and visually powerful production. Om Shanti Om.