The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings








Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London London Review
Bend It Like Beckham

"Anyone can cook Aloo Gobi but who can bend a ball like Beckham?" — Jess
Cast in Southall, UB2 (Photo: Ellie Kurttz)
The timing of the opening of Bend It Like Beckham is uncannily fortuitous with the England Women's Football Team playing in the semi finals of the World Cup in Canada this week.
Bend It Like Beckham was a successful low budget Asian/English movie which launched Keira Knightley as a star. Written by Gurinder Chadha, who now brings her script to the stage as the director, Bend It Like Beckham is a feel good musical with sporting connections. This is the first musical about football I remember since Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Beautiful Game.

At one level, this is about the first generation of British Asian children who are looking for an identity which can incorporate both their Asian family roots and expectations and the Western context of their education and social influences. Set in Southall, a largely Indian suburb of West London near the airport at Heathrow, we meet Jasminder or Jess (Natalie Dew) who longs to play football and has a crush on England's most handsome footballer David Beckham.

Jess's Sikh parents wish she would spend more time in a sari than in football kit and her father Mr Bhamra (Tony Jayawardena) has long nursed an ambition to make it onto an English cricket team. He found that career closed to him which he expresses in the song, "People Like Us". I find this lack of ambition for his children not something I associate with the Sikh families I have met. Maybe the opinion football is not for girls is realistic but which parent would oppose a scholarship to an American university?

Jess's elder sister Pinky (Preeya Kalidas) is getting engaged to Teetu (Raj Bajaj) whose parents are rather snooty and look down on the Bhamras. Jess plays football in the local park with her friend Tony (Jamal Andreas) who is also Asian but a closet gay man. A white girl, Jules (Lauren Samuels) recognizes Jess's footballing skills and introduces her to her women's team, the Harriers and their handsome coach, Joe (Jamie Campbell Bower). Jules has in turn problems with her mother Paula (Sophie-Louise Dann) who thinks she must be a Lesbian.

So we have a plot with ethnicity, sexuality and gender defined sport to challenge usually held stereotypes. Howard Goodall has written the tunes which are pleasing, if not immediately memorable. Natalie Dew has a lovely singing voice and gives us a star performance. Her opening number in both acts, "Glorious" is exactly that. Aletta Collins' choreography has plenty of refreshing female football squad moves interpreted as dance as well as the Asian influenced dances for the older Asian generation and Pinky's younger friends Bollywood dance, that is Asian influenced but considerably more racy!

Jamie Campbell Bower is the major love interest and he can sing as well. His role is to dress up in a suit and plead with Jess's parents that she might be allowed to play in the team. Act One closes with a novel fantasy sequence featuring a Beckham look alike (uncredited but may be Daniel Bolton). I liked Sophie-Louise Dann's song about difficult daughters, "There She Goes".

A scene for the Harriers team in Germany sees a win and a celebratory night out for them all in high heels and spangly dresses. Jess has too much to drink but Joe comes to the rescue.

Miriam Buether's set recreates the shops of Southall market and the arrival and departures lounge at the airport. The opening football scenes have a screen drop of squared netting like the goal.

The musical came into its own for me when its Asian roots were given full rein in Pinky's wedding to Teetu rather than the previous aunties dance interpretation which was played for comedy. "Heer" the love song and "Sadaa Chardhdi Kalaa" sung at the marriage are brilliantly evocative songs. Jess manages to sneak off to the second half of the crucial match being watched by an American coach and later the whole wedding party seem to invade the pitch.

Bend It Like Beckham is a musical fusion of East and West but too often the ball hits the goal post of easy conviviality rather than tackling more serious issues and scoring.

Subscribe to our FREE email updates with a note from editor Elyse Sommer about additions to the website -- with main page hot links to the latest features posted at our numerous locations. To subscribe, E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message -- if you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to Curtain Up and from what part of the country.
Bend It Like Beckham
Music by Howard Goodall
Lyrics by Charles Hart
Book by Paul Mayeda Berges and Gurinder Chadha
Directed by Gurinder Chadha

Starring: Natalie Dew, Jamal Andreas, Preeya Kalidas, Tony Jawardena, Sophie-Louise Dann, Jamie Campbell Bower
With: Raj Bajaj, Michelle Bishop, Daniel Bolton, Rakesh Boury, Lisa Bridge, Chloe Chambers, Jorell Coiffic-Kamall, Buckso Dhillon-Wooley, Irvine Iqbal, Natasha Jayetileke, Sohm Kapila, Sejal Keshwala, Shahid Kahm, Genesis Lynea, Kayleigh McKnight, Harveen Mann, Serina Mathew, Tom Millen, Sharan Phull, Leanne Pinder, Lauren Samuels, Rekha Sawhney, Karl Seth, Kirstie Skivington, Danielle Young.
Musical Director and Supervisor: Nigel Lilley
Choreography and Musical Staging: Aletta Collins
Set Designer: Miriam Buether
Costume Design: Katrina Lindsay
Lighting: Neil Austin
Sound: Richard Brooker
Orchestrations: Howard Goodall and Kuljit Bhamra
Running time: Two hours 40 minutes with an interval
Box Office: 0843 316 1082
Booking to 24th October 2015
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 26th June 2015 performance at the Phoenix Theatre, 110 Charing Cross Road London WC2H 0JP (Tube: Leicester Square or Tottenham Court Road)
Musical Numbers
Act One
    "Prologue - Glorious/Satnaam Siri"
  • "UB2"
  • "Girl Perfect"
  • "Look At Us Now/Golden Moment/Get Me "
  • "Tough Love"
  • "First Touch"
  • "People Like Us"
  • "Act One Finale - Just A Game/Fly"
Act Two
  • "Glorious"
  • "Result"
  • "More Fool Me"
  • "There she Goes"
  • "Bend It"
  • "Mehndi/Heer"
  • "Sadaa Chardhdi Kalaa"
  • "People Like Us/Glorious" (Reprise)
  • "Act Two Finale" (Reprise)
Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Bend It Like Beckham
  • I disagree with the review of Bend It Like Beckham
  • The review made me eager to see Bend It Like Beckham
  • Click on the address link E-mail:
    Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

    Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email . . . also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

    London Theatre Walks

    Peter Ackroyd's  History of London: The Biography

    London Sketchbook

    tales from shakespeare
    Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
    Click image to buy.
    Our Review

    ©Copyright 2015, Elyse Sommer.
    Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from