EagleLike Entertainment Bend It Like Beckham stage musical coming to Toronto

Bend It Like Beckham stage musical coming to Toronto



Winter in Toronto doesn’t seem like the right time for soccer — or, ahem, football — but this December the musical adaptation of the film Bend It Like Beckham is coming to Toronto.

It’s been over 17 years since Gurinder Chadha’s film premiered, launching the careers of Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley and earning $70 million worldwide with the intercultural coming-of-age story of Jesminder “Jess” Bhamra, a Beckham-obsessed teenager in west London who begins playing soccer behind her conservative Punjabi Sikh family’s back. Chadha, who wrote and directed the film, adapted it into a musical with music by Howard Goodall and lyrics by Charles Hart, with Chadha co-writing the book with her husband, filmmaker Paul Mayeda Berges. The musical opened on the West End in London in 2015, and was nominated for five Olivier Awards that season.

“It flowed for us. We knew where the songs needed to be in the story. We knew the essence of the story, the essence of Jess and her father’s journeys. You do go on the same ride as the movie but it’s much emotionally richer I think. Everything you enjoyed about the film is ten times more in the musical, is how I can describe it,” Gurinder told the Star from London.

Some critics agreed; Variety wrote that the West End production, which Chadha also directed, “works a lot better on stage than on screen” as a “sympathetic portrait of adolescence, a hearty celebration of multiculturalism and a big fat feminist hell-yeah.” But the show closed after nine months of performances, and hasn’t seen another major production since.

Starvox Entertainment will produce Bend It Like Beckham’s North American premiere, which will play in Toronto from December 2, 2019 to February 2, 2020 at the Bluma Appel Theatre. Toronto is a natural first stop before hitting the U.S. for Chadha, not only because she met Mayeda Berges at the Toronto International Film Festival. As one of the most multicultural cities in the world, it also has an audience that her story speaks directly to.

There are a lot of Indian elements in terms of music and dance in the British tradition of bhangra, but it’s very much culturally specific to Britain and the Asian community in Britain,” she said. “Therefore it’s a great show for any kind of diaspora, any kind of group where their parents or grandparents or great-grandparents have moved from one place to another. It works for them because it’s that idea of the old country and the new country, and how do we keep up with our kids who are changing faster than we would like them to.”

Chadha will be travelling to Toronto shortly to begin working out the details of the production, and said she’ll be heading immediately to Brampton to visit with Southeast Asian diasporic communities there — and to check out some bhangra talent for auditions, which she said will be as local as possible.

Will this cast need to be as adept at kicking and scoring as they are with dancing and singing?

“There’s great theatricality with balls,” said Chadha.

While she works mostly in film, Gurinder said that “musical theatre is one of the joys of (her) life.” And a new favourite is our very own Come From Away.

“It’s human and empathetic and all the things that I strive for. That’s my kind of show,” she said.

More details about the Canadian cast and ticket sales for Bend It Like Beckham will be released in the coming months. But in the meantime, get in some footie practice.

Credit: Bend It Like Beckham stage musical coming to Toronto | The Star

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