REVIEW: BRING IT ON (Southwark Playhouse) ★★★
Before he revolutionised musical theatre with the smash-hit Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda lent his genius to the adaption of an all singing, all cheerleading Bring It On the Musical which makes its UK premier at the Southwark Playhouse.
Based on the 2000 film of the same name, the musical follows Truman High cheerleader, Campbell (Robyn McIntyre), as she is forced to relinquish the captaincy of her squad and start again at Jackson High where hip-hop, not cheerleading, reigns supreme.
McIntyre showcases her impressive vocals from the very first number and almost succeeds in making her deeply flawed character likeable. Undoubtedly, the most likable character this show offers is Bridget (Kristine Kruse), whose charm and parrot suit endears her to the audience as she embraces body positivity and finds a new man in Twig (Ashley Daniels).
It is when Campbell makes the move to Jackson High that Miranda’s trademark hip-hop style really comes into play, bringing a new energy to the musical and bringing with it Ewan Jones’ slick and impressive choreography executed by Danielle (Chisara Agor) and her crew.
The new school also introduces a diverse set of new characters including La Cienega (Matthew Brazier). It was refreshing to see a queer character showcase their talents rather than being used solely for comic relief. However, the musical’s dealing with issues around race can, at best, be seen as dumbed down and at worst a showcase of the cultural appropriation of hip-hop.
The star performances are given by Bring It On’s two villains. Skylar (Isabella Pappas) delivers some fantastic one-liners with Pappas perfectly embodying the bitchy cheerleader during the number ‘Tryouts’. As Eva, Sydnie Hocknell delivers a killer performance, convincing even the audience that she is innocent before revealing her true colours in ‘Killer Instinct’, by far the best number of the night.
The British Theatre Academy’s production of Bring It On is light-hearted fun. Filled with cheer, the show is a great vehicle to introduce audiences to the London’s stars of tomorrow.
Reviewed by Ben McDonald
Photo: Eliza Wilmot