Book: Jeff Whitty
Music: Tom Kitt and Lin-Manuel Miranda
Lyrics: Amanda Green and Lin-Manuel Miranda
Director: Pollyann Tanner
The Birmingham Stage Experience bills itself as giving young people the opportunity to ‘tread the boards’ and get a feel for what stage life, and giving your all to a performance, is really like. However, they are sure to say that the finished performance should be just as professional as any other to grace the Alexandra stage. With a huge ensemble, and an ambitious, musical taking-on of the American High School classic, Bring it On, the bar is set very high and the young performers have a lot to do.
The set is a simple affair with effective use of a few screens, lights, and some roll-on, roll-off items to transport us between schools and other locations, the first of which is Truman High. As the sports hall timer runs down and half-time approaches we are introduced to the first of many characters, Campbell, played by Laura Bryan. Bryan oozes professionalism and maintains this throughout with her high-powered vocals and appropriate levels of high-school senior sass and is a joy to watch. As we meet the other members of Truman High, the cast pour onto the stage thick and fast, and although the risk of chaos here is high, the continued coordination for such a large group of dancers is impressive. As the story begins, fellow Truman senior Skylar is well played by Alexia Mouzakitis who blows us away with her first solo number, managing to clean the cobwebs off the Alexandra ceiling while firing attitude and insults all around. We are truly immersed in Truman Cheer life.
The pace unfortunately dips a little as the lockers arrive and we move to Jackson High. Initial transitions don’t feel as smooth and crew lead, Danielle, (Brittany Jarman-Watson) lacks energy at first but both thankfully pick up after the interval. It is tempting to attribute Jarman-Watson’s lacklustre start to nerves, as once she gets going the rapport with her fellow lead shines through and the remainder of her performance and vocals are strong. Truman-turned-Jackson, Bridget (Eden Wedgbrow), gets her time to shine in Act II and utterly steals the show. More than a few wow’s could be heard in the auditorium after she switches on the sass with It Ain’t No Thing and she becomes somewhat captivating to watch.
Energy levels peak all around as the finale draws near and the acrobatic performances start to come through. Once again, the levels of coordination on stage impress as the two schools compete and room to manoeuvre is little to none.
As previously stated, the bar was set very high and, even with all the positives of the evening, it is certainly not a faultless performance. There are a few sound-related faux-pas with mics not coming in as they should, a few shows of nerves that affect confidence and lead to mumbled lines, and a few scenes that could have been tighter. Overall, however, this is a show worthy of a main stage and a mainstream audience and is a great evening’s entertainment. There’s no doubt you’ll see some of these names bringing it on elsewhere soon.
Runs until 19 August 2023