REVIEW: BRING IT ON THE MUSICAL (Queen Elizabeth Hall)

The smash-hit, Broadway, cheerleading musical, Bring It On backflips into the UK.

Inspired by the film of the same name, Bring It On The Musical is written by Tony Award winners Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton), Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q) Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) and lyricist Amanda Green (High Fidelity). Packed with a vibrant team of characters, an electrifying contemporary sound and explosive choreography and stunts, this energy-fuelled journey bursts onto the Queen Elizabeth Hall at Southbank Centre for the London run of the shows highly anticipated UK Tour.

Bring It On The Musical revolves cheer-royalty and newly crowned Squad Captain, Campbell who should be embarking on her most cheertastic senior year at Truman High School. However, when she’s forced to move to the neighbouring hard-knock Jackson High, Campbell fears her life is over. But an unlikely friendship catapults Campbell back into contention, with a powerhouse squad and the fire to achieve the impossible.

This production stars theatre and TV sensation Amber Davies as Campbell and four-time Olympic medallist Louis Smith as Cameron. Joining them are Vanessa Fisher as Danielle (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream coat at the London Palladium and Follies at the National), Alicia Belgarde as Eva, Georgia Bradshaw as Nautica, Chelsea Hall as Bridget, Jal Joshua as La Cienga (Australia’s Got Talent), Bianca Szynal as Kylar, Samuel Wilson-Freeman as Steven and Chloe Pole as Skylar (Everybody’s Talking About Jamie). They’re supported by an incredibly talented ensemble who back flip and hip hop play multiple roles at both Truman and Jackson High Schools.

From the opening number, it’s clear the audience is in for a lot of fun with this Bring It On. The tunes are catchy, the choreography impressive and the cheer stunts rehearsed to perfection with many wow moments and mid-song applause heard throughout.

As Eva, Alicia Belgarde was expertly cast in this fun crazy-ass part. She acted with aplomb showing Eva’s sweet side and then doing a full one-eighty during the second act when Eva’s true intentions were revealed. Belgarde served a strong vocal and I look forward to following her career in the future. As often overlooked Truman mascot Bridget, Chelsea Hall shone. Her Bridget was quirky, funny and completely identifiable with. Going unnoticed until Bridget gets to Jackson High, Hall gave a compelling performance culminating in a powerful moment where she starts to own her sexual confidence in act two. Hall gave a powerful vocal that had the audience cheering along with her from the get-go. As Skylar, Chloe Pole gave a brilliant performance. Vocally strong, Pole’s Skylar was the perfect biatch with a heart. Amber Davies as Campbell gave an incredible performance. Campbell is the centre of the show and Davies managed this to perfection, her voice soaring with each number. As La Cienga, Jal Joshua was stunning. Always present and in character, their Cienga was fun, strong and joyful. It was very powerful to see Jal represent for the trans community in a role that’s not specifically about being trans. La Cienga is a confident, well rounded and passionate character that shows us how beautiful positive representation can be. Brava!

While based on the film, Bring It On The Musical has it’s own storyline and characters. Premiering on Broadway in 2012, the book took a while to get off the ground and the first scene almost seemed forced. Now dated with some cringy lines and moments that should have been left in the early 2000’s, I wish this production had been able to update the book to bring it more into the here and now. What Whitty has done well is create a show with a strong sense of itself. With jokes about not wanting to embarrass yourself on a reality TV show and how one lead character has absolutely no personal growth while everyone around her is blossoming, Bring It On The Musical doesn’t try to be something it’s not and maybe that’s enough.

Bring It On The Musical is a fabulous night out. With catchy music, stunning performances and very impressive cheerleading dance stunts, the production deserved its standing ovation on press night and everyone in the audience was left buzzing. With affordable ticket prices and no bad seats in the house, make sure you get your tickets to see where It’s All Happening at Bring It On The Musical!

★★★★

Reviewed by Stuart James