Mais El-Reem: The Awesome Musical That You’ve Never Seen
We just wrapped up another Tony Awards and with it the legacy of musical theater continues. But the United States isn’t the only country that makes them..Lebanon created the funny and endearing “Mais El Reem”
1. MAIS EL REEM
In the 1970s in Lebanon, the musical writing group of the Rahbani Brothers, Assi and Mansour, unknowingly created a masterpiece of musical theater. Along with their mega-star Fairouz, they wrote the Arabic language version of Romeo and Juliet…it would be called Mais El-Reem, the Arabic for “Deer’s Meadow”.
Fairouz’s character, Zayoun, pleading her case
3. RETRO CHIC
Mind you that the play was in the 70’s. As you look at the pictures and videos below, you’ll be transported to a simpler time (though war was breaking out around them in Lebanon at the time). Fairouz, her real life sister Huda, and an all-star cast created this great story. Even if you don’t understand Arabic, the melodies and harmonies, will carry you along.
4. ZAYOUN ARRIVES IN MAIS EL REEM
Video available at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=DqQ914NG0ow.
Zayoun’s car breaks down on the way to her cousin’s wedding. The local police known as the “harras”, led by head constable Ashawish, welcome Zayoun to their city, Mais El Reem, and ask her who she is. Zayoun tells them she’s on the way to Kahloun. You see Zayoun has her cousin’s wedding dress in her car, and is now stuck. OH NO!!
5. THAT HAT & SHALL!!!!
Yeah, the costumes are awesome.
6. ZAYOUN GETS IN DEEP TROUBLE
So the police tell Zayoun that there’s a mechanic in town named Na’man (pictured above). Sweet! But she’s SOL because he shut down his shop because he got into an argument with his girlfriend, Shahida. No problemo. She meets Nesnas, who would become her only ally in the town. Nesnas gives her the 411 after she gets nowhere with Na’man’s aunt..Na’man and Shahida are from families that despise each other. Nesnas tells her that they secretly meet and Zayoun totally wants to get them together, selflishly, so Na’man can fix her car. Except she totally stirs the pot in the wrong direction, which brings the family to blows.
7. PREP FOR BATTLE
So the police break up the fight and convince the families to fight the next day to hopefully cool their jets. But the dads, Hatem and Raja, have other plans and hire trained fighters to kick the other’s ass. Except Zayoun, who decides to spend the night in her car, overhears their bragging and calls the police. After being arrested, the families deny the hired guns, which just makes things worse. At their breaking point, they agree to call in the Mayor of the region to finally decide once and for all which family is in the right.
8. AMAZING SONGS in ACT ONE
Video available at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=zbfpQN0g-BM.
So before we get to Act 2, I do want to showcase this song from Act 1. The song, Habbou Ba’adon, is an exposition song which delves deep into Zayoun’s own messed up love life, when her man ditched her, so although she wants love, she doesn’t think she really can achieve it.
9. THE MAYOR ARRIVES WITH A TWIST
So finally, Zayoun can plead her case as to why she’s not to fault for the family’s latest fight. Hatem and Raja continue to argue, so much so the Mayor gets pissy and finally calls Na’man and Shahida out in front of the families. The BF/GF agree that their relationship is DOA…so the mayor decides that HE’S the one that will marry Shahida.
10. THE TOWN GETS DOWN
Video available at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=wuNL9gBJTiI.
In what is now an Arabic party staple, the town celebrates the engagement by throwing a party spearheaded by Raja. The song, Ya Marek Al Tawahine, is pretty much a kick-ass song.
11. THE TOWN GETS DESPERATE
After a few days, the town realizes that their dear Shahida is going to marry the MUCH older Mayor. And it’s their fault. The police try to deliver a love letter to Shahida, amongst other things. Ultimately, Hatem and Raja, decide to bury the hatchet and convince their kids to get married to spare Shahida a life with the Mayor.
12. FINALE – THE MAYOR’S RETURN
Video available at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=MXBybM7Oh1E.
So the wedding day arrives and the wedding is stopped in the nick of time. Shahida confesses she wants Na’man and the dads give their blessing. The Mayor admits he was never going to marry Shahida, he just wanted the families to come together. He reminds them that he’s the best Mayor ever. Zayoun think she has her chance now to force Na’man to fix her car. Instead the Mayor decides that he should marry Zayoun. She declines and the Mayor leaves by telling the town to fix Zayoun’s car. Unfortunately, Na’man has run off to get ready for his wedding leaving Zayoun stuck. The cops finally realize there is Zayoun’s car stuck in the middle of the street and question her again. Instead of history repeating, Zayoun reminds them to think about her stay when people fall in love. The police then push the car out of town.
13. IN THE END…
Video available at: http://youtube.com/watch?v=boNgOgj7_80.
This play rocks!!! Check out the 90 minute production in all it’s glory in the video here.