A cheering musical to be sure but But I’m a Cheerleader is ill-suited to the intimacy of the Turbine Theatre, it needs a bigger stage (and a bit of an edit) to truly shine
“Graham’s kiss is something different”
Kudos to Paul Taylor-Mills and the Turbine Theatre for nabbing the world premiere of this musical version of But I’m a Cheerleader, but you can’t help but wonder if this is the right home for the show. Tania Azevedo’s production is wonderfully full of pride and exuberance, especially through the expressiveness of Alexzandra Sarmiento’s choreography but with a set that wobbles more than Acorn Antiques and a stage that barely fits the 12-strong company, it’s a tricky fit.
Based on the 1999 film of the same name, we follow head cheerleader Megan who is nailing high school right down to the jock boyfriend. But her friends and family aren’t too sure, staging an intervention when they suspect she’s a lesbian and send her to a conversion therapy camp called True Directions. There she meets a tomboyish girl named Graham and discovers the direction she wants to go in – safe to say her family knew her quite well…
Andrew Abrams’ rather eclectic score certainly has its catchy moments, even if there’s perhaps one too many ballads. And Bill Augustin’s book is full of queer joy, allowing a range of characters enough depth to make a real impact within the show, strengthening the power of its message which, as a programme note points out, is still painfully relevant in a UK where gay conversion therapy is still legal.
Alice Croft stood out for me at the Graduates at Cadogan Hall showcase and she excels here as Megan, essaying a convincing emotional progression as she connects with Evie Rose Lane’s also-strong Graham. There’s powerful supporting work from the likes of Tiffany Graves, Jodie Jacobs and Lemuel Knights in the hard-working ensemble. But even as the production makes in-jokes about cramped conditions and hurried multi-roling, its hard not to feel the show deserves a bigger stage, to fully breathe into its fabulousness.