Winner of The 2016 San Diego Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Original Score, The Boy Who Danced on Air is a modern-day love story set in rural Afghanistan. Paiman and Feda have spent their young lives as dancers in the world of bacha bazi, where wealthy men take in boys from poor families, train them to dance at parties, and often abuse them. The two boys’ chance meeting changes the course of their lives and sets them on a journey to find their independence in this musical fable about love, tradition, morality and the strength of the human spirit.
Charlie: It went well! It’s a terrifying thing to put something you’ve been working on for years in front of a paying audience for the first time—particularly for us, given the sensitivity of the subject matter in our show. So it was really wonderful that both audiences and critics responded well to it and seemed to get what we were doing. And the show received the San Diego Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Original Score, which was a wonderful bonus.
How did the San Diego production inform the work you’ve been doing to prepare for the Off-Broadway production?
Tim: I think the great thing is that there’s a continuity in the creative team—our director and choreographer, as well as two of our actors are the same—so the work we’re doing is really a continuation of everything we did in San Diego. It’s cool because we really get the chance to refine and deepen moments—but there’s not the chaos of wholesale changes.What has the partnership with the staff at Abingdon looked like as you move towards opening night?
Charlie: They’ve been so supportive. This is the first musical they’ve ever done, which is wonderful in a way, because the commitment to getting it right is palpable. You really feel everyone pulling out all the stops and stretching all of their resources to make sure this happens in the best way possible.
What from the show are you most excited to share with audiences in New York?
Tim: For one, Nejla Yatkin’s choreography is so stunning and theatrical and really unlike anything you’ve ever seen before and I can’t wait for people in NY to see it. It’s funny because our friends here have only seen pieces of this show behind music stands—but when you see it with the set, and costumes and the full impact of everything that all these other artists bring to the show, it’s something else entirely.
Why should everyone come check out the east coast premiere of The Boy Who Danced on Air?
Charlie: You know, six years ago we saw the documentary, The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan, and we couldn’t stop thinking about it for months. There’s so much about this subject matter that cuts close to the bone and brings up very complicated issues of tradition and morality that felt very relevant and present to us. If we end up communicating a fraction of how we felt with an audience, I think this show is worth seeing.
For more information, and to buy tickets, visit Abingdon’s website. Be sure to use the discount code NAMT45 for $45 tickets!