EW Staff
January 23, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

How did an exotic rags-to-riches story spanning the slums of Bombay and the bright lights of Bollywood make its way to Broadway? Three words: Andrew Lloyd Webber. The musical-theater giant and director pal Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth) were seduced by a hip-shaking song called ”Chaiyya Chaiyya,” the work of prolific South Asian composer A.R. Rahman. ”Both of them got the idea: ‘Why don’t we get this composer and make a musical?”’ recalls Rahman, who captures the spirit of Bollywood with a score merging classic South Asian sounds and DJ-style Indian bhangra beats. Webber’s production of Bombay hit London’s West End in 2002 (where it’s still running), and it’s being retooled thanks to Broadway book writer du jour Thomas Meehan (Hairspray, The Producers). ”I don’t know anything about India,” Meehan laughs, explaining that he streamlined Bombay’s story of a fame-seeking lower-class man who loves an upper-crust glam gal. ”It’s an exciting, beautiful show that has a chance to surprise a lot of people.” Naturally, Rahman — ever humble, even though he’s sold more than 100 million soundtrack albums — is inclined to agree. ”It’s one of a kind.” (March 29)

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