I was thrilled to be taken to Bend it like Beckham last week. I used to think I didn’t like musicals – but that was before I had ever seen one in the West End. I’d just seen sappy musical films on TV and started to yawn as soon as the hero started to sing. As soon as I’d taken my own children to the Lion King years ago, though, I was hooked and we’ve now watched Wicked twice, plus seen everything else from the marvellous Billy Elliot to Mathilda, via Grease and the Book of Mormon.
I’d seen the film of Bend it like Beckham years ago and of course had loved it despite the high football content. Football, for me, is the equivalent of mogadon. It doesn’t take much to put me in a deep, deep sleep and I try to avoid watching it if possible on the grounds that it is a) insanely dull and b) very stressful if England is playing and the result actually matters. Because we lose.
So the original film starred Keira Knightly as an ingenue, and also the girl who ended up as a surgeon in ER, one of my favourite shows of all time. And the football wasn’t too bad. I had high hopes for the musical version.
On one hand, I wasn’t disappointed. The sets were marvellous and the whole show had bags of Bollywood energy and huge pizzazz. There were some outstanding performances, particularly from Pinky, the sister of the main character, whose engagement and wedding provide some of the great set pieces.
On the other hand, there was a bit of football, and I did find it quite hard to care about it. But there was a priceless cameo from Posh and Becks which made us all laugh.
Probably the best, and most revolutionary, things about the show was the audience it attracted – it was a far cry from the usual stuffy white middle class bunch. This was an audience from the places being sung about, and they really cared about the story and the way it turned out. It lifted the whole evening and made it hugely enjoyable.
If you’re looking for a family show this summer, do give it a go. But if you’re not going with (young) kids, remortgage your home for the priciest tickets in town, and see by far the best musical show for years – the Book of Mormon. This is an amazing evening, with songs you’ll be singing years later, and you will have laughed your socks off all the way through.