22 February 2016

Bend it like Beckham at the Phoenix Theatre was a feel-good musical on steroids

I had heard of the film on which the musical is based but that was about it and from that little knowledge I had concluded that Bend it Like Beckham was a simple crowd-pleaser of a musical that was best avoided, which I did.

The little nagging doubt came from knowing that Howard Goodall had written the music and I had seen and loved several of his musicals.

What finally persuaded me to go was a ticket offer that coincided with a special day. And to celebrate that special day and also to keep in the spirit of the musical I first went for a curry, at Woodlands just of Piccadilly where I had been a few times before. It was a good start to the evening.

The Phoenix Theatre was on the other side of Soho so there was a nice walk through the back streets to get there. Soho is vibrant and lovely and should stay just as it is.

Somehow I had not been to that theatre before so I had little idea what it looked like inside. I assumed, correctly, that it was like most other traditional theatres in the west end and so I went for a seat in my usual location, Dress Circle Row A  Seat  15, which was a friendly £35.

If I had any preconceptions about Bend it Like Beckham it was that it would be a full-on family musical with an Indian twist to the story, music and dancing. Which it was, and it had so many great things going on around that. I liked the way that the story included elements of class, sexuality and inter-generation conflicts as well as the expected gender elements.

While the young woman keen on playing football, Jess Bhamra, was at the centre of the story she was surrounded by many other strong characters, such as her sister Pinky Bhamra, her determined English football playing friend Jules Paxton, Pinky's boyfriend and Jess' male school friend who is secretly gay. To that list you can add assorted parents, other family members, friends and, of course, the girls' football team. It was a very large cast which was just what was needed for the many ensemble scenes of singing and dancing.

There were some nice technical touches too, such as the way that the two main girls' bedrooms slid in an out on raised platforms on either side of the stage. Tricks like that meant that the action could move from scene to scene quickly without breaking the flow too much, something that film makers do not have to worry about.

There were plenty more nice touches in the script too such as, and these are just two little examples to prove the point, the football skills shown by Posh Spice and the Jules' forty-something mum being called a granny by a young man.

The overall effect was wonderful. The main plots were obvious, as they should be, which meant that we got the happy endings that we all wanted and we also got lots of other happy, funny and jolly things along the way.

Bend it Like Beckham was a feel-good musical on steroids with a great cast. I absolutely loved it.

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