Culture Writer Kathryn Dungey reviews Bring It On at The Alexandra Theatre, praising the outstanding performances of the young cast members
The Alexandra Theatre’s production of the musical Bring It On is part of The Alexandra Stage Experience. Stage Experience takes place every summer, auditioning 150 young people, mostly from the West Midlands. They learn practical production skills and, after 13 intense days of rehearsal, they showcase their talent in four performances.
Bring It On explores the competitive world of cheerleading. Rivalries and scheming see Campbell (Laura Bryan), captain of the Truman High School cheerleading squad, kicked off the squad when she is forced to move schools. Eventually finding out that her friend at Truman High betrayed her by manipulating the system to have Campbell sent to a new school, Campbell decides to get revenge the only way she can – through cheer. She forms a squad at Jackson High and, although Truman High beat them at Nationals, the journey that the Jackson squad have been on and the friendships they have formed end up being more valued than any trophy.
The high energy and skill of real-life cheer competitions is certainly captured by the talented stars of this production of Bring It On. Opening with a high-energy dance routine, this show is exciting and engaging from start to finish. The simplistic set design with minimal backdrops and only some props, such as lockers in the school setting, is effective because it allows dancing and cheer to be the central focus on stage. The skill of these young performers is clear in every dance number where they are able to tumble, dance, sing, and act all in the same breadth. The acrobatics and cheerleading stunts really take the show to an impressive level.
The talent extends to the actors’ singing as well. As someone who loves going to watch musicals at home in London, I can certainly say that the voices on The Alexandra stage are equal to the quality of those in the West End. The songs range from expressing anger and hurt to excitement and love, with a stand out being ‘It Ain’t No Thing’ sung by the characters Bridget (Eden Wedgbrow), Nautica (Demi Mitchell), and La Cienega (Molly Ann Bache). As a song all about empowerment and feeling proud of your appearance no matter what, not only are their singing voices powerful, but the message of the song is too.
The high energy continues into the second act of Bring It On, with the dancing and singing remaining at a high standard. This half is also more emotionally vulnerable, focusing on how to find and gain forgiveness from your friends. Bryan and Brittany Jarman-Watson (playing Danielle) perform exceptionally well during these touching scenes, capturing the hurt and anger that comes from betrayal through their moving facial expressions and singing. Likewise, the villainous Eva (Bessy Hingley) performs her scheming song ‘Killer Instinct’ with an intensity that perfectly captures the essence of a high school bully focused on becoming cheer captain no matter the cost.
It is easy to forget that the young stars of the show have had less than two weeks to prepare for Bring It On. The quality of their performances are outstanding and it is exciting to see such talent at the beginning of what I am sure will be great careers for them. It is a shame that there are only four performances of the show, as I think anyone who loves a fun and well-performed musical should see this production of Bring It On at The Alexandra.
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