Review: Bring It On

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Absolutely brimming to the top with energy, Hild Bede Theatre Company’s Bring It On, is a powerful and memorable performance. Set in an American high school, the play opens with an introduction from cheerleader Campbell (Mia Shambrook), who is hoping to be made captain of her squad and get them to win the annual national cheerleading competition. The future is looking bright after she is appointed in the role but soon her life turns upside down when she has to transfer to another high school, without a cheerleading team. Although this may seem like a classic tale, Bring It On is anything but. Full of developed characters, important messages and spell bounding cheerleading routines, Bring It On is one to get completely lost in.

As a musical, the dance numbers to accompany many songs were simply outstanding. The co-choreographers and Emma Clarke, created inventive, original and complex routines. From unison movement to solo performances, the cheerleading routines have it all and it is impossible to draw your eyes away from the unfolding brilliance! The daring lifts and flips really do leave you on the edge of your seat and the performers make each look effortless. Clearly a bonded team, the cast executes numbers with energy. At times, movements do become out of sync but the commitment from the performers distracts from this.

The daring lifts and flips really do leave you on the edge of your seat and the performers make each look effortless

The singing standard is also incredibly high. What was most notable about the singers in Bring It On, are their faultless voices. is one extremely strong performer in the musical. She embodies her character and transports the audience directly into the story. From the moment she opens the show with the song ‘What I was Born to do’, to the moment it closed, Shambrook wows us with her stellar vocals. She is a joy to listen to. During the song ‘We’re not done’, Shambrook duets with Lola Babalola, and this is a highlight from the entire show. Crucially, the two portray a nuanced dynamic, going from almost enemies to great friends. The devotion within their friendship is clear in this number, their strong bond and can-do attitude make this song a moving watch as they prepare to tackle nationals! At times, there were microphone issues which made it difficult to hear certain lines and made some musical numbers a little tricky to understand, but the cast handled these moments professionally and they quickly moved on.

Another impressive part of Bring It On, is the sense of place the cast creates. As well as an appropriate set-up on Caedmon Hall’s stage, complete with school logos and lockers, the cast successfully creates a matching atmosphere. As Campbell transfers to Jackson High School the atmosphere on stages changes instantly and the unwelcoming school halls of Jackson set the scene. It is clear there has been thoroughly thought-through direction, not only in this scene but throughout the performance as all the stage is used and the cast is constantly busy, injecting energy and flow into the performance.

It is clear there has been thoroughly thought-through direction, not only in this scene but throughout the performance as all the stage is used and the cast is constantly busy, injecting energy and flow into the performance

Performers grasp every aspect of their characters by fully committing to their quirks and motivations. A common trait amongst a few characters is their funny personalities! playing Bridget is hilarious. As a character who embraces all she is, Bridget is a role model for us all and Holliday plays her with zest. Holliday’s physicality and voice control are so strong and make her performance a natural one. Skylar, played by Alex Wishart, brings another element of comedy to the performance with her brilliant performance of the uptight slightly bossy want-to-be cheer captain. Importantly, each character differs from one another and it is lovely to see strong characterization shining through.

Overall, Bring It On embodies everything a musical stands for. Energy pours from every element of the performance, from the band to the cheer routines. A final mention must go to the band who play superbly. The choreography is so impressive and the performers bring this story to life. It is a truly impressive piece of theatre.

Image credit: Hild Bede Theatre

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