Fabian Aloise’s banging choreography spikes, basket-tosses and split-lifts this cracking production of Bring It On – the Musical at Queen Elizabeth Hall, or catch it on its UK tour in 2022
“Like Hells Angels, but cheerleaders”
In a show that really is about teamwork, it’s a real joy to see a production practising what it preaches. I caught Bring It On – the Musical the night after press night and so saw a couple of understudies in leading roles. Now I don’t know if Oliver Adam-Reynolds (on for Louis Smith as Cameron) and Kenedy Small (on for Chelsea Hall as Bridget) had been on as these characters before but the joy their castmates showed at the curtain call was a truly uplifting thing, even more so than the two high pyramid.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I’d like Bring It On. The film is one of my all-time favourites – some might call it a guilty pleasure but for me, it is just straight up pleasure – and so an adaptation that essentially tells a different story (much like Sister Act the Musical, another of my beloved movie choices) carries the danger of not being the same. But Jeff Whitty’s book does a good job of reshuffling the deck to tell a different story but one which carries much of the same spirit (stick).
Campbell can’t wait to be named captain of Truman High School’s cheerleading squad as she starts her senior year but an administrative quirk sees her redistricted to neighbouring Jackson High, a school that one that doesn’t even have a squad, her dreams look set to be shattered. Will she discover new things about herself? Will she make any new friends in the sh*t-hot dance crew there? Will anyone make it to nationals? Whaddya think? 😉 Guy Unsworth’s bright production knows exactly how to pitch it.
Amber Davies’ brings a delightful level of perky pep to Campbell, honouring the serious intent behind this most determined of characters. And she plays off brilliantly against Vanessa Fisher as frenemy Danielle, the Jackson High dance crew leader with a phenomenal voice. Around them, microcosms of high-school dramas play out – Chloe Pole’s Queen Bee Skylar hilariously the star of her own movie-musical, Kenedy Small’s Bridget blossoming beautifully and highly wittily in a new environment, Alicia Belgarde’s bubbly Eva taking her commitment just a little too far…
Tom Kitt and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s score takes a little while to bed in, by far at its best once the scene moves to Jackson High where you can hear that this is very much the guy who wrote Hamilton at work, Sarah Burrell’s musical direction full of energy. Libby Watson’s design effortlessly conjures the teenage temples of bedrooms and sports halls but MVP has to go to choreographer Fabian Aloise. Working in both the spheres of cheerleading and dance, his routines are without fail breathtakingly good, capturing so much of the exhilaration of performance with an ensemble nailing every step and stunt. Bring it? Oh they brought it!