Music – Tom Kitt & Lin-Manuel Miranda
Lyrics – Lin-Manuel Miranda & Amanda Green
Director Guy Unsworth
Before writing the critically acclaimed hit musical Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda co-wrote this spirited but fairly standard musical Bring It On, loosely based on the 2000 film of the same name, along with co-lyricist the award winning Amanda Green and musician Tom Kitt. The acrobatics, however, lift it out of the ordinary.
The story is about the competitive, gossipy and fiercely competitive world of Cheerleading. It starts with cheerleaders from Truman High at Cheerleading summer camp only for the lead Campbell, played by Amber Davies, of Love Island fame, to find she is being moved to the inner city district Jackson High School, where she will have to compete against her old schoolmates. There is a running love interest running through but it rather fizzles out.
The film explores issues that the musical does not, such as cultural appropriation, though there may be a nod here as the inner city school pupils wear Jamaican flag coloured cheerleading uniforms with large ‘J’s emblazoned on them. Other problematic issues are dropped with the musical looking more at the cultural issues of privilege, inclusiveness and prejudice and includes a trans student, Jal Joshua, who belts out one of the many joyous musical numbers in this production, though having this Australia’s Got Talent runner up and Filipino star make a joke about noodles does feel problematic.
This musical delivers. It contains happy musical numbers, and the voice of Vanessa Fisher, playing Danielle, really stands out but there are no voices that let this cast down and so Bring It On makes for a good fit for the musical festive period. These numbers help hold together what feels like a rather stop/start dialogue. It is in the second half that the musical numbers start to really rouse the audience with the showstopper It’s All Happening and we are given touching harmonies and enjoyable rap and hip hop numbers throughout the performance. But there are a few bland moments too.
However it is the athletic acrobatics of the performance that really make this musical. Choreographed by Fabien Aloise, the cast and ensemble perform amazing vigorous routines with whirling cheerleaders being flung high into the air to be expertly caught to gasps from the audience and twirling acrobatics happening across the stage which bring genuine thrills. This presumably is why Olympic champion gymnast Louis Smith has been brought in as the big name cast member. However he rarely looks comfortable in his performance and is somehow out of place as the other cast members pull off the exciting choreography with electrifying ease.
All of the dance numbers are equally energetic and a credit to the choreographer and cast, especially when you consider the original New York production contained professional cheerleaders. The standing ovation is well deserved.
Runs until 22 January 2022