Alongside ‘Legally Blonde,’ ‘Heathers,’ and most recently ‘Mean Girls,’ Bring It On is one of many teen cult movies to receive the musical treatment. With a few plot tweaks from the classic hit film – feuding squads replaced by ‘Single White Female’ syndrome – Tony Award winner’s Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q), Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights, Hamilton), Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) and Amanda Green (High Fidelity), manage to keep all the sass and spunk of the original box office smash, whilst also providing a smooth update to include messages of inclusion and body positivity.
Director Ewan Jones has a great awareness of comedy and camp. His production, in association with The British Theatre Academy, is both economical and obtrusive. There are minimal set designs and props but plenty of garish neon’s and strong colours to capture the youthful energy of high school life. Nothing quite sends a shiver down the spine like the sight of a cheerleading uniform and Tom Paris’ bright pink outfits play satirically with the archetype of the superficial, ditzy mean girl. A symbol of social hierarchy; as opposed to that of spirit and positivity, the Truman High squad attire is a sharp contrast to the unique and individual style modelled by the Jackson High dance squad. Ben Jacobs’ light design utilises spotlights, strobes and strip lights that frenetically change through a rainbow of colours, to differentiate between the various character’s stories, private moments and dream sequences of the show.
The pom-poms and spirit fingers may have gone but the impressive stunts remain, ensuring every inch of the Southwark Playhouse stage is used. Each cartwheel, back handspring and human pyramid is performed with energy and flair by a cast bursting with future musical theatre stars. The score requires rap, pop-rock and a serious belt which seem effortless among an ensemble of standout voices. Although Bring It On: The Musicalisn’t flawless – in particular the topic of cultural appropriation that was handled so well by its onscreen counterpart becomes lost in this Broadway version – its heart is in the right place and like many cheesy movies of the noughties, it’s entertaining from beginning to end. Sit back and enjoy!