Rating: 4 stars ★★★★
I know what you’re thinking; ‘Really? A Bring It On musical?’ Well put those cynical thoughts aside because this fabulously fun production explodes off the stage with effervescent energy and looks like a million bucks.
Bring It On has a surprisingly lofty pedigree for such a seemingly elementary show. Both the composers are Pulitzer Prize winners; Tom Kitt wrote the brilliant Next To Normal and Lin-Manuel Miranda created a little piece you may have heard of called Hamilton. The lyricist Amanda Green is the daughter of Adolph Green, a hugely popular songwriter during Broadway’s golden age, and book writer Jeff Whitty won a Tony Award for writing Avenue Q. This is by no means their best work, but this experienced creative team ensures that Bring It On succeeds as a stage show against the odds and shakes off the somewhat pedestrian nature of its source material.
All seventeen-year-old high school student Campbell (Nadia Komazec) has ever wanted is to captain the cheerleading squad at Truman High. Her wish is finally granted, but a sinister plot is set in motion and Campbell finds herself redistricted to Jackson High School. At this new school on the wrong side of the tracks she struggles to fit in and realise her cheerleading dreams. Friends become enemies, enemies become friends and everyone learns valuable life lessons in acceptance and humility. It’s a somewhat bland storyline designed to give the audience warm and fuzzy feelings, but the razor smart script has it’s tongue firmly planted in cheek and isn’t above making jokes about the clichéd plot. Bring It On is actually pretty clever and kind of funny. Who would have thought?
The casting for this production is perfect. These performers are more than triple-threats; in addition to singing, dancing and acting they also have to convincingly pull off death-defying cheerleading stunts. These breathtaking routines are overseen by cheerleading coach Natalie Commons and had the opening night audience literally holding their breath. The entire ensemble succeeds brilliantly and the energy they bring to their performances is genuinely exciting. Quadruple-threats anyone?
Komazec makes Campbell immediately relatable and her assured performance thankfully avoids falling into tired typical ‘dumb blonde’ tropes. Her Campbell is ambitious, confident, fragile and flawed; a fully fleshed out human character and the audience wants her to succeed every step of the way. Komazec has deft comic timing and sings the crap out of the material. Her rival at Jackson High is Danielle played by Elandrah Feo in a charismatic performance that radiates coolness. Feo has a smooth and versatile vocal tone perfect for the role and she executes Michael Ralph’s intricate and explosive choreography with ease.
The supporting cast are just as fantastic. Emily Thompson and Hollie James play Skylar and Kylar with the perfect amount of ditziness and Thomas McGuane charms as Campbell’s love interest Randall. Samantha Bruzzese and Marty Alix portray Danielle’s brassy sidekicks in scene-stealing performances and Nicola Bowman has the audience eating out of the palm of her hand as the delightfully dorky Bridget. The casting for this production couldn’t be better.
DVE should be applauded for putting together such an accomplished production of a complicated show. There are so many moving parts happening all at once and a real potential for everything to come crashing down, but under Alister Smith’s skilful direction it all runs smoothly and looks dazzling. The lighting and sound designs are first class and the whole production fits beautifully on the Athenaeum stage. Bring It On is fast, furious and full of fun.
Publication: Arts Hub
Author: Reuben Liversidge