Bend It Like Beckham, the movie that launched the careers of Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley, is being turned into a musical that will open in the West End next May.
Writer and director Gurinder Chadha will adapt her film for the stage, while Howard Goodall, composer on musicals including Girlfriends, The Dreaming and Love Story, will provide the music and Phantom of the Opera writer Charles Hart will pen the lyrics.
The 2001 British film hit tells the story of Punjabi Sikh London teenager Jess, who is set on pursuing a career as a professional footballer against the wishes of her parents. It grossed £48 million worldwide and impressed critics with it’s tackling of issues such as religion, sexuality and interracial relationships.
Nagra went on to land a career-defining role in US medical drama ER, while Knightley forged a hugely successful movie career that has seen her nominated for an Oscar.
Writer and director Gurinder Chadha, who will adapt her film for the stage, said the new production would not be defined by existing ideas of what an Asian musical should be.
“We wanted to create a British musical that was completely different to anything that has come before,” said Chadha. “Our intention was to create a new kind of musical with a different musical language. Bollywood is banned. That word is not allowed because whatever Asian influences are there are basically Punjabi west London as far as I am concerned – those that I have grown up with and very west end musical influences.”
The director said she she was also very aware of the significance of the timing of the show in relation to the forthcoming General Election and prospective debates around race.
“We are opening in the year of the election and there are enough people out there who will be using race as a divisive mechanism during the election process, which traditionally and historically always happens, as we know,” she told The Guardian.
“What we are trying to do is make a stakehold for those of us who believe we live in a brilliant nation that is all the better for being as diverse and as interesting culturally as it is, and that it isn’t just one community that has created this.”
Bend It Like Beckham opens at London’s Phoenix Theatre on 24th June, with previews from 15th May.