Saturday, September 30

Bring It On: The Musical – Festival Theatre

This was a blast!

The Beyond Broadway franchise does it again; bringing together no fewer than 250 tinnies, teenies and young adults to the Festival Theatre stage following an intensive two week, acting, singing and dancing summer school. Can they pull off this huge and extremely challenging and technical show? Of course they can, and then some!

Loosely based on the year Y2k American teen comedy motion picture of the same name, Bring It On: The Musical first saw the light of day in January 2011, where it opened to mixed reviews.

Put together by such illuminated Tony-winners as writer Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q), Composer-lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda (In The Heights, Hamilton) and composer Tom kit (Next To Normal), this Musical certainly has a rich pedigree – but is not well known, and rarely performed. And you can see why; it requires extreme athletic and gymnastic ability, a huge cast and a huge stage. An earlier UK tour production featured an Olympic gymnast (Louis Smith) in one of the supporting roles!

Alisa MacLean is rarely off the stage and simply fantastic as the high kicking, high singing and high acting Campbell, Cheerleader dance captain for snooty Trueman High, ‘being a cheerleader is like being a marine: you sign your life away’. Unfortunately, crowd-favourite Campbell is soon ousted by Bunny-boiler Eva, played with aplomb by Millie Wilson whose song ‘killer instinct’ is one of the standout performances in the second half. Campbell ends up transferred along with hilarious sidekick Bridget (Ellen Eklund) to grungy hip-hop dancing, rap-laying, Jackson High School (cue the green subdued lighting) which doesn’t even have a cheerleading squad! Can Campbell rise from the ashes, build a new squad and regain her crown from evil Eva?

This is a classic, and not very original, ‘hero’s journey’ storyline (think Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars) but is nevertheless enjoyable to watch, with a smart script and some catchy and sweet songs.

Ellen Eklund is a riot as Bridget who gets most of the laugh lines as she transforms from sidelined piratical parrot mascot to little miss popular, showing that change is not always a bad thing and can be an important element for growth.

But this is really all about the dancing and when the hive gets going this show really buzzes along with every square inch of the stage put to maximum use, a riot of glorious costumes and choreography.

Though perhaps overly long and inevitably formulaic the sheer energy and verve and talent of this cast and the ‘Hamiltonesque’ lyrics which run through this piece manage to propel this to Barbielike heights. Who would have thought!

Running time – 2Hr 20mins (with one interval)

Reviewer: Greg Holstead

Reviewed: 28th July 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.