Southbank Centre’s latest addition at Queen Elizabeth Hall features a powerful musical based on the 2000’s cult classic Bring It On. At first glance, the programme is easily dismissable: is it the same iteration of American high school drama redressed and spun into something supposedly new? I can certainly say that this production is by no means trite.
Amber Davies plays the bubbly yet fierce Campbell, to whom cheerleading is the meat of all human existence. With dogged determination, she strives to get Truman High to the Nationals. However, her dream of rising to the top is shattered when she is forced to move to Jackson High, which does not have a cheerleading team. Triumphantly, she builds herself up again whilst learning a lesson or two about friendship and values. Whilst Bring It On is generally a lighthearted musical, it doesn’t fail to address various prejudices, privileges, as well as problematic ‘white saviour’ tropes.
It’s clear that the cast is immensely talented; Davies stuns us all as she spends about two hours proving that she’s worth more than her reality TV prestige; though she already has us hooked in the first ten minutes. She belts out every musical number perfectly and harmonises beautifully with Vanessa Fisher’s equally commanding stage presence as Danielle, head of Jackson High’s dance crew. While perhaps not as choreographically polished as her counterparts, Davies still impresses the audience with her professional turn into theatre; it’s almost as if she was born to play Campbell. Supporting performances by Jai Joshua, Georgia Bradshaw, and Chelsea Hall shine just as bright and provide waves of comic relief. There’s even a teasing moment of metatheatre that renders the audience in hysteric glee, leaving a smile tugging at even the most method actors on the stage. Danielle exclaims to Campbell, “Who wants to embarrass themselves on reality TV?” playfully harking to Davies’ past credits.
It is no surprise that the goosebump-inducing choreography by Fabian Aloise is the highlight of Bring It On. An impressive display of Olympian athleticism by Louis Smith only amplifies that feeling. The cast clearly knows their routines like the back of their hand - every set proves to be electrifying as there is not one beat missed.
The set designs by Libby Watson were creatively used, accompanying perfectly ‘Y2K’ inspired costumes by Susan Kulkarni complete with argyle jumpers and mini skirts. Combined with the lyrical prowess of writers Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tom Kitt and Amanda Green with explosively energetic choreography, Bring It On: The Musical makes for an exhilarating show well-worth watching.