The reviews are in, and there’s no doubt about it – the West End musical makeover of Bend It Like Beckham has scored big with the critics. Perhaps the show’s impeccable timing – as the Women’s World Cup takes place in Canada and Fifa continues to reel from its corruption scandals – helped, but it seems the real success of the show comes down to the teamwork of the creatives and a 30-strong company.
Of the overnight national reviews I’ve summarised below, only Michael Billington in the Guardian reined in his praise in a three-star review. Elsewhere, it was mainly five-star raves, with many critics hailing Bend It Like Beckham – which is directed by the 2002 film creator’s Gurinder Chadha, and enhanced by new music by Howard Goodall and lyrics by Charles Hart – as the best British screen-to-stage musical since Billy Elliot. “Irresistible”, “joyous”, “uplifting”, an absolute “blinder”.
Natalie Dew, making her West End debut as Jess, is Player of the Match for many critics: a new star. Beyond the reviews, there are red carpet flashes (Jamie Campbell Bower has a snappable girlfriend), a where-are-they-now? on the film’s original stars (which included Keira Knightley – geez, whatever happened to her?!), and interviews with Chadha, Campbell Bower and Preeya Kalidas (who had a cameo role in the film and has now traded up to play Jess’ big sister Pinky).