The reviews are in, and there’s no doubt about it – the West End musical makeover of Bend It Like Beckham has scored big with the critics. Perhaps the show’s impeccable timing – as the Women’s World Cup takes place in Canada and Fifa continues to reel from its corruption scandals – helped, but it seems the real success of the show comes down to the teamwork of the creatives and a 30-strong company.
Of the overnight national reviews I’ve summarised below, only Michael Billington in the Guardian reined in his praise in a three-star analysis. Elsewhere, it was mainly five-star raves, with many critics hailing Bend It Like Beckham – which is directed by the 2002 film creator’s Gurinder Chadha, and enhanced by new music by Howard Goodall and lyrics by Charles Hart – as the best British screen-to-stage musical since Billy Elliot. “Irresistible”, “joyous”, “uplifting”, an absolute “blinder”.
Natalie Dew, making her West End debut as Jess, is Player of the Match for many critics: a new star. Beyond the reviews, there are red carpet flashes (Jamie Campbell Bower has a snappable girlfriend), a where-are-they-now? on the film’s original stars (which included Keira Knightley – geez, whatever happened to her?!), and interviews with Chadha, Campbell Bower and Preeya Kalidas (who had a cameo role in the film and has now traded up to play Jess’ big sister Pinky).
Bend It Like Beckham is currently booking at the West End’s Phoenix Theatre until 24 October 2015.
What the Papers (and Others) Say
REVIEWS – MAINLY RAVES
MY THEATRE MATES > THEATRE CAT – ★★★★★
Libby Purves: In the midst of Fifa’s dismal doings, musical theatre makes football beautiful again. Gurinder Chadha’s fable emerges even stronger for Howard Goodall’s music and Charles Hart’s lyrics.
DAILY MAIL – ★★★★★
Quentin Letts: Britain’s newest musical turns out to be like the best sort of FA cup match: end-to-end entertainment, full of feisty shimmers and heart- stopping melodrama. Life-affirmingly British.
TELEGRAPH – ★★★★★
Dominic Cavendish: I was rubbish at football at school and have no interest in the game. But whether or not you’re a fan , this new musical is a bold, beautifully British triumph. Irresistible.
INDEPENDENT – ★★★★★
Paul Taylor: The most irresistibly joyous musical makeover of a much-loved movie since Billy Elliot. How refreshing to have young characters who aspire to something different. Uplifting, a blinder.
GUARDIAN – ★★★
Michael Billington: You have to admire the timing. With England riding high in the Women’s World Cup, this seems an ideal moment for this musical. But Gurinder Chadha still sidesteps the big issues.
TIME OUT – ★★★★
Andrzej Lukowski: Like the England mens’ team at their very best, Bend It Like Beckham is about fifty percent wondering where this is all going to fifty percent pure euphoria. And that’ll probably do.
Mark Shenton: Just as no one bends a football quite like David Beckham so no British originated new show bends the musical in such a welcome new direction. Billy Elliot rewritten is glorious.
Veronica Lee: Natalie Dew is utterly enchanting. Howard Goodall fluently blends pop and traditional Asian sounds in a paean to London’s multi-culturalism. An exuberant, feelgood show.
BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE
Philip Fisher: The plotting is lightweight. The music is varied. The result is an undemanding, feel-good musical with some catchy tunes that will please football addicts and romantics.
Bend It Like Beckham Invite to Women’s World Cup Team
Bend It Like Beckham creator Gurinder Chadha plans to invite England’s women’s World Cup team to see the new stage show based on her hit film.
Lily Collins Supports Boyfriend Jamie Campbell Bower at Opening Night
Collins – who last month rekindled her romance with the actor – stole the attention of photographers outside the Phoenix Theatre as she arrived in a chic black dress…
Stars Line Red Carpet as Bend It Like Beckham The Musical Opens
Stars lined the red carpet to mark the opening night of Bend It Like Beckham The Musical. The stage production – which is based on the award-winning 2002 film…
Photo Flash: All the Bend It Like Beckham Production Shots
The new British musical Bend It Like Beckham opens in the West End. Earlier this year a further 200,000 tickets were released for sale at the Phoenix Theatre, taking bookings to 24 October.
FEATURES & INTERVIEWS
Keep Off the Pitch: Why Football Makes Bad Art
Why do so few football transfers to stage and screen hit the back of the net? With Patrick Marber’s The Red Lion at the NT and Bend It Like Beckham in the West End, Barney Ronay waves a red card.
Gurinder Chadha: ‘It’s Been the Most Satisfying Thing’
Seven years ago, when Gurinder Chadha was in hospital, about to give birth, one of the doctors recognised her as the director of Bend It Like Beckham, and made a confession…
Can Bend It Like Beckham succeed in the West End?
The scene is Old Trafford, where a young girl – playing for Manchester United – boots the ball and scores a goal. The crowd goes wild. This was the opening dream sequence…
Gurinder Chadha: Why Bend It Like Beckham Still Matters
Gurinder Chadha could never quite blow the final whistle on here 2002 football film, which is now a new West End musical…
13 Years On: See What the Stars of the Film Look Like Now
It was a film like no other back in the Noughties. A girl from a traditional Indian family playing football – say what?! It broke boundaries, had a killer soundtrack, and a young Keira Knightley…
Gurinder Chadha: Why the Football Transfer
Gurinder Chadha is Britain’s most prominent Asian filmmaker. Her biggest hit, the 2002 comedy Bend It Like Beckham, follows a young Sikh girl living in the London suburbs who joins…
Jamie Campbell Bower: ‘Being Onstage is a Different Monster’
Jamie Campbell Bower made his first big impression when appearing in the movie adaptation of musical Sweeney Todd in 2007. Eight years and several big Hollywood films later, he’s finally…
Preeya Kalidas: Same Story, Different Part
Preeya Kalidas was caught somewhat unawares when director Gurinder Chadha called her about workshops for the Bend It Like Beckham musical. The actor had already attended a read-through of…