REVIEWER RATING: ★★★

After a highly successful Melbourne season, the Australian professional premiere production of Bring it on – The Musical has returned. This time around, the production – produced by David Venn Enterprises and directed by Alister Smith – has played not only to Melbourne audiences, but it’s also taken the stage in Perth and Sydney. Last week, the limited Sydney season commenced at the State Theatre.

While the musical is loosely based on the 2000 film starring Kirsten Dunst and Eliza Dushku, the show’s storyline is entirely different to the film, bar the fact that it focuses on rival high school cheerleading squads. Campbell (Kirby Burgess) is vying to be the next captain of Truman High School’s squad. But redistricting sees her transferred to the nearby Jackson High School and her young neighbour, Eva (Karla Tonkich), taking her prized spot as leader of the squad.

Campbell is ferociously determined to continue cheering, so she convinces Danielle (Jasmine Smith) and her dance crew (Samantha Bruzzese and Marty Alix) to start their own cheer squad to go head-to-head with her former Truman teammates. But getting their buy-in involves telling a sizeable lie, which predictably backfires on Campbell later in the proceedings. In the end, there’s a lesson on the consequences of pursuing a win at all costs, as well as what ‘winning’ in life actually means.

Bring it on – The Musical is a fun night out for younger theatregoers and fans of the Dunst-led cult classic. A number of heavy hitters were involved in creating the musical, including book writer Jeff Whitty (the Tony-winning book writer for Avenue Q), and the music was written by Tom Kitt (the Tony-winning composer of Next to Normal) and Hamiltoncreator Lin-Manuel Miranda (working with Amanda Green, Miranda also wrote the lyrics). On the whole, the score isn’t particularly memorable, but there are some hummable tunes (this reviewer left the theatre with the penultimate number, ‘Cross the line’, firmly lodged in his head.)

In this production, however, it’s Michael Ralph’s choreography for which the highest praise should be reserved. Working with Natalie Commons (who has 23 years’ experience in cheerleading, dance and gymnastics), Ralph has created a series of routines that are tight and energetic and foreground the impressive skills of the ensemble cast (Dayton Tavares’s dancing is a particular standout). There’s the athletic cheerleading moves and stunts you’d expect to see and also some well executed hip hop. Nathan Weyers’s simple set allows the choreography to remain front and centre.

When it comes to the lead cast, Burgess delivers as the likeable cheer veteran with unwavering resolve and brings the audience along on her journey. Smith is well cast, too, as Campbell’s Jackson High friend who plays an integral part in her personal growth. Baylie Carson is aptly guileless and socially awkward as Bridget, the aspiring cheerleader with less promise, while Tonkich’s portrayal of the brutal but initially charming upstart, Eva, is right on the money. Both Bruzzese and Alix lend strong support.

Bring it on – The Musical offers a solid night of family entertainment, packaged together with a reminder about what matters most. This is a good one for younger Sydney musical fans this weekend.

To purchase tickets, head to bringitonthemusical.com.au

Photo credit: Nico Keenan

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