Youth theatre company Stage Masters have become the first in Victoria to attempt the acrobatic musical Bring It On, based on the 2000 film of the same name. By no means a small feat considering its requirement for spectacular cheerleading and its venue being the diminutive Alex Theatre in St Kilda. Yet the company have put together a very enjoyable staging that does the script and score justice
Being used to seeing high school students be played by young adults in your average stage show, it takes a little getting used to seeing a cast approximating the correct age for their roles. But it soon becomes glaringly clear that these kids can hold a tune with the best of them, while ably finding their characters, and any fears quickly fade of this being the kind of production you see at schools where there’s one great talent and the rest of the cast are of limited abilities. Many a star of tomorrow is currently gracing The Alex Theatre’s stage.
Bring It On tells the story of Campbell Davis, captain of the Truman High School cheer squad. All is perfect in Campbell’s world; she has even devised a plan of succession for the leadership of the squad should something ever happen to her. Little does she know that plan would be brought to bear so soon, when she returns from the summer break to discover that due to a reallocation of the school district boundaries, she and the school nerd Bridget have now been “redisctricted” to the cheer squad-less, inner-city Jackson High School. Now the fish out of water, Campbell has to work her way up from the bottom of the popularity pile to put together a crew of Jackson cheerleaders that can give Truman a run for their money at Regionals.
Jessie Monk as Campbell is a real charmer, bright of voice, sassy of step and altogether winsome, she helps ensure her character’s less redeeming qualities do not overpower her position as the story’s heroine. As Danielle, Jackson’s ‘Queen Bee’, Jasmine Smith demonstrates a lyrically beautiful voice and feisty attitude, perfectly accompanying composer Lin-Manuel Miranda’s track “It’s All Happening” and evoking the style of his hit show In The Heights.
The standout performance of this production though is found in India Angel as the dorky Bridget. India not only has brilliant comic timing that belies her young years, she also has a vocal belt that is so pitch perfect and glorious you’ll wish her character had more solo numbers. Remember her name, because she’s sure to be a star of the future.
Across the board, director Jensen Overend has assembled a cast that are full of energy, wit and talent. All embody their roles wonderfully and of particular charm are India Morris as the acid tongued Skylar and Hugo Donath as the swaggering and hormonal Twig. There are perhaps too many performers in the ensemble however, as despite their charm, they swamp the stage at times and choreographer Jan Di Pietro is left with the task of traffic management rather than dance design in many a scene. Considering the space though, the cheerleading components of the chorey are quite remarkable. An additional ensemble of 11 provide extra stunts in the cheerleading sequences – tumble runs, aerials and lifts – really elevating the choreographic credentials of the production.
Musical Director Andrew Kroenert has worked excellent harmonies out of the dancing ensemble, but it does sound as though the musical accompaniment is supplied from a pre-recorded source. Certainly the lack of a credited orchestra would suggest this is the case.
Sound by Outlook Communications is of the ear bleeding variety and completely unnecessarily over-amplified, while Tom Willis’ lighting seems to be intentionally irritating, engaging the retinal burnout technique on the audience right from the outset. Pointing the lighting outward may give a ‘stadium’ feel from time to time, but should be used quickly and sparingly, if ever. Long blasts of lighting in the face is the equivalent of saying please don’t look at what’s going on onstage. In view of there being no set to speak of it’s important that lighting works a little harder than this.
I’m sure the originally Bring It On was designed to be a spectacular show in constant motion, full of the same sort of cheerleading routines that made the movie so popular. In this format, it’s hard to reproduce that. While it has its moments of wittiness and some pleasing Broadway-pop style songs, Bring It On is by no means in the same league as the musicals its composers are famous for (Next to Normal’s Tom Kitt also has a hand in the music). This is a highly admirable interpretation of a pretty slight show.