“It’s a little bit Punjab
And a little bit UK”
It’s been just about a month since Bend it like Beckham heard the final whistle at the Savoy so I thought I’d cast a reviewer’s eye over the Original London Cast Album which was released last year. I’ve long been a fan of Howard Goodall’s work and this score was no exception, hooking me from the first time I saw to the show to the second and the third with its fusion of his own inimitable British style and the Bhangra influences drawn from Gurinder Chadha’s book, aided in authenticity by co-orchestrator Kuljit Bhamra.
Recorded live in the theatre (although there’s minimal sound from the audience until the very end), it sounds a real treat and it really does give the best of both the worlds it represents. Whether individually as in Sophie-Louise Dann’s ‘There She Goes’ or Rekha Sawhney leading the bridal party in the gorgeous Punjab lament ‘Heer’, or multiculturally as the majority of the music, it is always highly tuneful and musically interesting, highlighting styles of music that are too rarely seen in the West End.
My highlights include the two aforementioned tracks, as well as the suite of songs that make up The Engagement, Natasha Jayetileke and Tony Jayawardena’s parents crooning beautifully through the show’s single most lovely melody in ‘Look at us Now’, followed by Preeya Kalidas’ wedding-obsessed Pinky thoroughly owning her moment. The soaring tunes of ‘Glorious’ in the hands of leads Natalie Dew and Lauren Samuels, opener ‘UB2’ and wedding/cup final mash-up song ‘Sadaa Charhdi Kalaa/Result!’ all also transfer well onto record.
Sometimes a cast recording can help you to reassess musical moments that might not have worked for you in the theatre but that wasn’t the case here for football coach Joe’s two songs ‘First Touch’ and ‘More Fool Me’, Jamie Campbell Bower not able to elevate the rather banal sentiments of this part of the show’s storyline that always felt the weakest to me. But that’s a small quibble in what is otherwise a compelling rendition of a strong score. The show’s closing notices were published alongside assurances that UK and international tours were in the pipeline and until more details are forthcoming, this cast recording should tide you over very nicely indeed.