Bend It Like Beckham: The Musical has been in previews at the Phoenix Theatre since 15th May 2015, and this week, it’s the moment of truth as the show’s official opening night is almost here. The critics are ready and waiting to descend upon the Phoenix with their Pens of Judgement on Wednesday 24th June 2015, and once the reviews are out, we’ll know whether the show’s creators have indeed managed to ‘bend it like Beckham’ and gotten the football musical past the wall of critics to score a winning goal, or whether they’ve missed the post completely.
Football fever is taking over the West End, and not only because of Bend It Like Beckham, which was one of the most hotly-anticipated new shows of this year, but because of the two longest running musicals, Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera. The West End giants have been in competition with one another for almost 30 years now, but they are set to go head-to-head in an altogether different venue later this summer as Les Mis v Phantom returns for the fourth year running.
Cast and crew members from each show will face off against one another in a charity football match at Bromley Football Club on Sunday 2nd August 2015. It’s a fun-filled family day of music and entertainment, culminating in a Les Mis/Phantom show-down on the pitch.
In keeping with tradition, the cast and crew of both the Les Mis and Phantom teams will be joined by several celebrity and professional players, with the likes of McFly’s Danny Jones, stage and screen star Ralf Little, and ex-West Bromwich Albion FC player Bob Taylor all having taken part in previous events. For this year’s match, special guest players that have already been announced include ex-Southampton FC player Francis Benali, ex-Southampton and Wales goalkeeper Paul Jones, Northern Ireland international player Paul McVeigh, and England U21 Captain James Ward-Prowse.
Before the match kick-off though, there’s a musical treat in store with a live concert featuring a line-up of West End and pop stars. Names announced as performing include: Carrie Hope Fletcher, currently playing Eponine in the West End production of Les Miserables; Filipina singer Rachelle Ann Go, who starred as Gigi in the original London cast of the 2014 revival of Miss Saigon and is currently playing Fantine in Les Miserables; former Phantom and Les Miserables star John Owen-Jones; ‘First Lady’ of the West End, Kerry Ellis; former Valjean Geronimo Rauch, who is currently starring in the title role of The Phantom of the Opera and former Les Mis-er Killian Donnelly, who is a rising West End leading man through his roles as Raoul in Phantom, Tony in Billy Elliot, Deco in The Commitments and Huey in Memphis, and is set to take on his third original leading role as Charlie in the West End première of Kinky Boots this August.
It’s an impressive list of names for Les Mis v Phantom 4.0, which first began back in 2012 with Associate Director of Les Miserables, Christopher Key. The original Les Mis v Phantom match event was created in support of former Les Mis Wig Mistress, Melanie Oakley-Dow, who was battling cancer at the time, and raised over £12,000 for her charity, Macmillan Cancer Research. Melanie sadly passed away in December 2013, but Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera continue to play every year in memory of her.
It was decided that the event would support a different charity every year. In 2013, Les Mis v Phantom: The Reprise was in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital ‘Theatre for Theatres’ campaign, and in 2014, Les Mis v Phantom: The Hat-Trick was in aid of Cardiac Risk in the Young, with some proceeds from the day also donated to Mel’s charities Macmillan Cancer Research and EllenorLions Hospices as a mark of respect after she lost her battle with cancer.
Both events raised over £20,000 for their chosen charities, and the teams hope to raise even more in 2015 with Les Mis v Phantom: The Mad Match, which this year is raising funds for TheatreMAD, a branch of the West End charity, The Make A Difference Trust. They continue to pay tribute to Mel’s memory too, as cast members of Les Miserables took over Monday night’s Kinky Kabaret at Freedom Bar, Soho on 8th June 2015, donating the door proceeds to Macmillan Cancer Research.
Les Mis v Phantom: The Mad Match promises to be another unmissable day of fun for all the family to enjoy, starting with the performances on the stage and ending with the performances on the pitch. There will also be stalls, a raffle, face painting and a bouncy castle there on the day as well. The Phantom team were the winners of last year’s match, but who will be going home as the 2015 champions of Les Mis v Phantom?
Gates opens at 12:30pm, with the concert beginning at 1.:30pm and match kick-off following at 3pm. Follow them on Twitter (@lesmisvphantom) for further details about the event.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Tuesday 23rd June 2015