Back in 2002, a movie inconspicuously rolled into cinemas worldwide, no one prepared for the phenomenon it was about to create. I’m talking of course of Gurinder Chadha’s amazing Bend It Like Beckham. The premise, Indian football-loving girl breaks all the rules in order to follow her dreams, seemed a bit far-fetched, yet oddly well-timed and actually believable in early 2000 Britain.
Instead of a niche market, the movie found resonance with EVERYONE, and before you knew it, women’s football was cool, being Indian was cool, and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers became a sex-symbol.
A musical was supposed to happen very quickly, unfortunately it didn’t see the light of day until May 2015. I went to see it in late August and have to admit I was a bit apprehensive. I LOVE the film, I’ve seen it over a 50 times by now and I just couldn’t see it work with singing and dancing.
A friend saw it a few months before I did and said it was great, so I bought my tickets.
It’s great. It’s a true feel-good musical, and even though a purist like me will always find flaws in everything that’s different than the original, it still manages to deliver the happy factor.
There’s been a few changes, for example Jules’ mother is now a single parent, and while it can throw you a little, in the end it allows the musical to be its own master rather than just a copy of the movie.
Natalie Dew, who plays Jess, has a lovely voice and the doe-eyed look needed for a girl who’s supposedly quite clueless about boys and life outside of her culture.
Lauren Samuels, who plays Jules, couldn’t do the performance I attended, so I saw Kirstie Skivington instead. She may just be part of the ensemble usually, but I thought she played Jules really well and she actually reminded me of someone I knew.
Preeya Kalidas, Jess’s sister Pinky, is actually someone who was in the original film! Remember Pinky’s 3 friends? She was one of them!
Jamie Campbell Bower is a dead ringer for Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Joe. They have very similar facial features and are both tall and thin. They also share a similar voice range (if you’ve seen August Rush you can check up on Jonathan’s).
The set was amazing as it used revolving walls which turn into Southall market, the football pitch, changing rooms and Heathrow airport. Jess’s house is shown in lights and her room, as well as Jules’ come out of the sides.
The songs were catchy, though I can only remember one. The dance numbers were great, especially the mix between Indian dancing and street dancing.
Every football related choreography was well worth watching. Either the ball was lifted by a cable, or replaced by a light to show it moving around the room.
The orchestra is visible at the top of the stage on the balcony, and two Asian singers accompany certain songs as well as serving as ensemble members.
I can definitely recommend it as a good night out for the whole family!
Pictures from: impdb.org, londontheatre1.com, punjab200.com, blogspot.com, lovetheatre.com, hollywoodreporter.com, cdnds.net