Bring It On is Southwark Playhouse’s summer musical, the 2012 show based on the 2000 film and with music and lyrics by Tom Kitt, Amanda Green and, of course, Lin-Manuel Miranda. With a book by Jeff Whitty, the production features students from the British Theatre Academy. I really hope there are a few casting directors in the audience, because these young performers really impressed me.
Bring It On is the story of a cheerleader, Campbell, who successfully leads her squad to qualify for the national cheerleading championships. However, when she is forced to move schools and attend a high school where cheerleading is ignored in favour of more modern dancing, she is faced with the prospect of giving up on her dream. Can she convince her new friends to embrace her favourite sport, and in the process take revenge on the girl who engineered all her problems?
Though based on a Noughties movie, this is a modern teenage tale, body positive with an awareness of race and class issues, and an acknowledgement that, as Campbell’s Jackson High love interest points out, your teenage years won’t seem so important in the years to come. Campbell is encouraged to embrace friendship and experiences over winning – an oft-told tale, but delivered with an appealing freshness.
There is an absolute wealth of talent here: Robyn McIntye as Campbell is sincere and likeable, while Kristine Kruse as her geeky friend Bridget (my personal favourite) is warm and funny. Isabella Pappas is hilarious as the popularity-conscious Skylar, while Sydnie Hocknell as the sweet but manipulative Eva is very funny, especially during her individual number which features performers in unicorn onesies. At Jackson High, Chisara Agor, Mary Celeste and Matthew Brazier are superb as the key members of the hip-hop dance crew.
The choreography is dynamic and impressive, although it is inevitably restricted by the small space of the theatre. It’s easy to spot Lin-Manuel Miranda ‘s songs, as they have that recognisable toe-tapping energy, but the other contributions by Tom Kitt and Amanda Green are good too.
I had so much fun at this show and I would definitely recommend it. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve just seen some of the stars of the future, too.