Review: Bring It On
Cast of Bring It On - photo by Eliza Wilmot
Campbell - Robyn McIntyre
Danielle - Chisara Agor
Bridget - Kristine Kruse
Randall - Haroun Al Jeddal
Eva - Sydnie Hocknell
Nautica - Mary Celeste
La Cienega - Matthew Brazier
Skylar - Isabella Pappas
Kylar - Clair Gleave
Cameron - Clark James
Twig - Ashley Daniels
Steven - Samuel Witty
Jake - Morgan Howard Chambers
Woman - Millie Longhurst
Man - Chalie Fisher
Tyler - Ben Terry
Stacey - Amy Howell
Swing - Billy Nevers, Nathaniel Purnell
Angeli De La Cruz
Bitingly relevant, sprinkled with sass and inspired by the hit film, Bring It On takes audiences on a high-flying journey that is filled with the complexities of friendship, jealousy, betrayal and forgiveness.
Uniting some of the freshest and funniest creative minds on Broadway, Bring It On features an original story by Tony Award winner, Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q), music and lyrics by Tony Award-winning composer, Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights, Hamilton), music by Pulitzer- and Tony Award-winning composer, Tom Kitt (Next to Normal), lyrics by Broadway lyricist, Amanda Green (High Fidelity), and was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Musical.
Last week saw the opening of Goodnight Mister Tom from the British Theatre Academy at Southwark Playhouse (you can read our review of that show here).
Now, with the appearance of this high school based musical, the BTA has completed its effective temporary takeover of the venue.
And these contrasting shows provide ample evidence of both the range of skills the BTA can muster, as well as delivering very different offerings, each with its own particular appeal.
Loosely based on the 2000 film of the same name, Bring It On centres on the hugely competitive world of American high school cheerleading, an activity that seems to have formed its own peculiar world as an adjunct to the prowess of school sports teams.
But, as a glance at some online videos will confirm, cheerleading might have started on the sidelines of highly popular sports, but it's now become almost a sport in its own right, with a distinct hybrid of skills drawn from circus, dance and gymnastics.
At the start of the show, we're in Truman High School where Robyn McIntyre's Campbell is desperate to become captain of the cheerleading squad.
But just as her ambition is fulfilled, she finds she'll be leaving her school due to bureaucratic redistricting of school boundaries, and finds herself relocated to Jackson High School.
Kristine Kruse's Bridget, also reassigned to Jackson, finds a new lease of life as a potential "sex kitten" and much more popular personality.
Campbell, however, finds herself somewhat bereft because students at this rather more down-to-earth educational institution eschew cheerleading in favour of dance instead.
But as the plot unfolds, Campbell persuades her new colleagues to make a foray into cheerleading and take on her old school in the national championships.
Director and choreographer Ewan Jones presents a splendidly polished and meticulously honed production.
And his large, enormously talented cast ooze confidence from every pore, handling the complex dance numbers with vigorous and energetic aplomb.
There's considerable gymnastic athleticism in the dance routines where we find cracking tumbling figuring in the choreography.
However, the final sequence at the national cheerleading finals - didn't quite manage to reach the dizzying heights of the truly spectacular which one can certainly find in real-life performances from cheerleading squads, and which had been signposted from earlier routines.
Though the set-up for Jeff Whitty's book offers potential for some gritty and relevant reality, given the contrasting attitudes in the two schools, it rather shies away from tackling that dichotomy head-on in a forceful and dramatically significant way, so the tension in both in the storyline and between characters is never satisfactorily realised.
As it is, the distinctions between the populations of the two schools seem relatively marginal rather than pronounced, failing to deliver on the possibilities the set-up had proffered.
However, that lost opportunity doesn't blight the show.
Lin-Manuel Miranda and Tom Kitt's engaging, sometimes beguiling tunes are more than appropriate for the contextual setting, even if they never get to be wholly memorable.
And both the individual vocals and company singing are uniformly robust and amply satisfying.
Though the school setting is hardly unique, Bring It On does find a glimmer of novelty in the vigorous athleticism of cheerleading, and that focus enables the enormously talented, vibrant BTA ensemble to shine and deliver a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable show.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for Southwark Playhouse
Our show listing for Bring It On
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