Theatre Review: Bend It Like Beckham The Musical - Phoenix Theatre ✭✭✭

Bend It Like Beckham
The Musical
Photo - Ellie Kurttz
Phoenix Theatre

25th June 2015: It's not often we see an adaptation of a film turned into a musical... Oh wait a minute, yes we do! There's been a plethora of them over the years, it's a tried and tested formula. Producers try it, test it, and then try even more to get the formula right. Does it work with Bend It Like Beckham? Sort of.

So what is it about I hear you ask... Jess needs extra time. She is facing the most important decision of her life: live up to family expectations of university, career and marriage, or follow in the footsteps of her hero David Beckham. When the talented teenager is spotted playing football in Southall, a world of unexpected opportunities opens up before her. But as her sister’s traditional Indian wedding approaches, can she keep her family happy and still follow her dreams?

The concept is there, it looks stunning on stage, Miriam Buether's designs look awesome with Neil Austin's lighting enhancing it further. Periactoids (technical term alert) are used under the curving top section to give us the different scenes of Southall, football fields, airports and so on. Automation is used to nice effect, and the sound design from Richard Brooker is yet again top notch (this being the second show of his I have seen this week - Love Me Tender was also very good).

Photo - Ellie Kurttz
Vocally, the singing from this ensemble is very good, Natalie Dew as Jess turns in a great performance along with Lauren Samuels as Jules, but Preeya Kalidis as Jess' sister Pinky is an absolute treat to watch. Sophie-Louise Dann as Jules' Mum Paula also gives an impressive performance with her comedy presence on stage.

But for me, what lets the show down is the material. For a new musical, it has it's ups and down, don't get me wrong here but the original Punjabi folk songs sound stunning, and some of the Bhangra fusion sounds great, but the other three quarters of the score is a complete nightmare. There's only so many times I can hear a reprise of a song, and Girl Perfect isn't one that I like to hear. It's as if Howard Goodall and Charles Hart ran out of ideas, I suppose there's only so much you can write about football and Indian weddings to have an impact, and this score falls foul of the goal.

Hats off to the cast though for doing some outstanding work, if only the material was there to showcase them even more, then Bend It Like Beckham would be a fabulous show... at the moment, it's adequately average.

Three stars ✭✭✭


Theatre:                  Phoenix Theatre, Charing Cross Road, London, WC2H 0JP
Performances:          Monday – Saturday 7.30pm, Wednesday & Saturday matinees at 2.30pm       
Preview schedule:     Friday 15 May at 7.30pm, Saturday 16 May at 7.30pm
                             Wednesday 20 May at 7.30pm, Thursday 21 May at 7.30pm
                             Friday 22 May at 7.30pm, Saturday 23 May at 2.30pm & 7.30pm
                             Wednesday 27 May at 7.30pm, Thursday 28 May at 2.30pm & 7.30pm
                             Friday 29 May at 7.30pm, Saturday 30 May at 2.30pm & 7.30pm
Tuesday 2 June at 7.30pm, Wednesday 3 June 2.30pm & 7.30pm
Thursday 4 June at 7.30pm, Friday 5 June at 7.30pm
Saturday 6 June 2.30pm & 7.30pm 
                             Then Monday – Saturday 7.30pm, Wednesday & Saturday matinees at 2.30pm
Prices:                    Opening weeks:  £15 - £49.50, plus 115 Book It Like Beckham seats at £15 each
Group tickets:  groups of five £49.50 per ticket & groups of eleven £39.50 per ticket
A limited number of Day Seats at £15.00 each will go on sale from the Box Office, in person only, from 10am on the day of performance
All ticket prices include a £1.50 restoration levy
Box Office:              0843 316 1082
Twitter:                   @benditmusical #bendit