Previewed 15 May 2015, Opened 24 June 2015, Closed 5 March 2016 at the Phoenix Theatre in London
The world stage premiere of the new British musical Bend It Like Beckham in London, co-adapted and directed for the stage by the film's original co-writer and director, Gurinder Chadha.
Jess is facing the most important decision of her life - does she live up to her family expectations of university, career and marriage, or follow in the footsteps of her hero David Beckham. When the talented teenage footballer is spotted playing football in Southall, a world of opportunities opens up before her. But as the day of her sister's traditional Indian wedding approaches, Jess needs to pick sides.
This brand new British musical features vibrant characters and a new music score with a Punjabi kick with and funny, glorious and uplifting story about refusing to watch from the sidelines, bending the rules, and scoring that deciding goal.
This stage musical production is directed by Gurinder Chadha with choreography and musical staging by Aletta Collins, sets by Miriam Buether, costumes by Katrina Lindsay, lighting by Neil Austin and sound by Richard Brooker. Original music by Howard Goodall and lyrics by Charles Hart with a new book by Paul Mayeda Berges and Gurinder Chadha adapted from the 2002 film with screenplay by Gurinder Chadha, Guljit Bindra and Paul Mayeda Berges. Charles Hart's West End credits include the lyrics for Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals The Phantom of the Opera (currently playing at London's Her Majesty's Theatre), Aspects of Love and Love Never Dies). Howard Goodall's London theatre credits include the music for the musical Love Story (Duchess Theatre 2010).
When the production opened here at the Phoenix Theatre in June 2015, Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard hailed it as being "a joyous feelgood show... and you don't need to have seen the movie, or even be keen on football, to appreciate its warmth and freshness... there’s a rich humour throughout." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph commented "that creator/ director Gurinder Chadha ensures the evening is a level playing field in terms of prior interest... all that's required is to watch what unfolds with an open mind and prepare to be transported and uplifted in a way that few British musicals manage to achieve." John Nathan in the London Metro thought that "the plot has an appeal much broader than footy... this uplifting musical version feels like a much-needed reminder that we can feel good about immigration... the show scores on wit and charm and bends a positive message about melting-pot Britain right into the top corner." Michael Billington in the Guardian described how "it has the same exuberant cheerfulness as the film... Howard Goodall's score is delightfully eclectic." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail wrote "how wonderfully, life-affirmingly, 21st-century British it is... end-to-end entertainment, full of feisty shimmers and heart-stopping melodrama... the sheer fun of it is irresistible." Neil Norman in the Daily Express praised it as being "one of sunniest, funniest musicals I have seen in many a year... The ensemble dance number that opens the second half is viscerally exciting, with respect to choreographer Aletta Collins - and the casting is perfect." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times described how "composer Howard Goodall is a master of musical idioms and knows how much or how little exotica to include in any given number without falling into pastiche. Charles Hart's lyrics are clever but never clever-clever, as befits the librettist of The Phantom of the Opera." Paul Taylor in the Independent highlighted that "this is the most irresistibly joyous musical-theatre makeover of a much-loved movie since Billy Elliot... And how rare and refreshing in this particular genre to find young characters who aspire to something different from breaking into show business. Another reason to welcome the piece in which Gurinder Chadha, director and co-author of the 2002 film, has masterminded a version that reinvents rather than recycles the material.... as an uplifting celebration of multi-cultural Britain, this show plays a blinder." Dominic Maxwell in the Times said: "She shoots ... she stages ... she scores! Gurinder Chadha, that is, the filmmaker who here converts the 2002 film that made her name into a winning stage musical... Then hang on for a more amusing, affecting, musically sophisticated and finally irresistible second half... it's mainstream yet knotty, funny yet tender, generous enough to make you happy to bend with its contrivances. Result.
"Bend It Like Beckham is a premier league triumph. It is based on Gurinder Chadha's 2002 film about Jess, a west London Asian girl with a passion for football, who defies her strict Sikh parents to join the local Hounslow Harriers... Gurinder Chadha herself helms this exhilarating stage version, which sticks closely to the original... Charles Hart's lyrics are elegant and witty... The triumph of the evening is, however, Howard Goodall's melodious, passionate score, where East meets West in a perfect reflection of the show's theme... The result is the best British musical in years." The Sunday Express
"Gurinder Chadha's gloriously theatrical version of her original 2002 movie doesn't merely recycle it but revitalises it, deepening the characters, sharpening the humour and creating a joyous celebration of multicultural Britain, girl power, spirited teens and team spirit... OK, so composer Howard Goodall's score and Charles Hart's lyrics are Championship rather than Premier League but the best songs, Bend It and Glorious, keep the narrative ball in the air with great flair. As does a fabulous dance number in which the Hounslow Harriers stretch, swerve and expertly do keepy-uppies. The real achievement, however, is in the balance and tight interweaving of Eastern and Western attitudes, traditional and street sounds, and differing dancing styles... It's a girls' Billy Elliot set to a bhangra beat. Empowering and exhilarating, you'll float out of the theatre on a wave of elation." The Mail on Sunday
The musical Bend It Like Beckham in London at the Phoenix Theatre previewed from 15 May 2015, opened on 24 June 2015 and closed on 5 March 2016.