With an unfocused and poorly written book, a disappointing score and an altogether bewildering story line, Bring It On did not have much to sell it to begin with. Unfortunately, this new production team seems to have rushed the show onstage, resulting in a half-baked production of an already below par musical.
The opening number, ‘What I was born to do’, was an accurate reflection of the show to follow; it had potential, but ultimately showcased an unimpressive score and underwhelming performance. The lighting, whilst evidently emulating stadium lights, was often harsh and distracting, and at times even blinding the audience.
The vocal energy of the cast felt like it was just simmering, waiting to reach a heightened level of excitement, the kind you would expect from passionate cheerleaders, but it never really came. It touched those heights briefly in the final number, instead of starting with a bang from the get go.
The cheer choreography employed a series of big stunts that, whilst occasionally impressive, were unsuccessful more often than not. The dance choreography was fairly simple, and was not executed with power and precision; it was messy. The costumes were unflattering and poorly put together.
The book (by Jeff Whitty) is unfocused. The musical is inspired by the popular movie, and not a re-telling of it; it instead takes an unexpected and unrealistic turn to focus on a crazy sophomore, a paranoid senior and a formulaic tale of friendship, betrayal and revenge. The characters’ objectives are either unclear and the audience is left questioning why anyone does anything, or, when they are clear, are naïve and unoriginal. The dialogue is clichéd and so often the cast is forced to wait for jokes to land that just never do.
More disappointing is the repetitive and mediocre score. Tom Kitt and Lin-Manuel Miranda have had an incredible career between them, with critical and box office favourites including Next to Normal and In The Heights, but unfortunately this score lacks any of the wonder and success that those scores possessed. Similar to the book, the lyrics are so often unexceptional and surface level, lacking the depth and emotional complexity of some of their better work.
The Broadway production was critically acclaimed for its choreography and stunt work. This production lacks that wow factor and the choreography was ineffective, with no sight of the precision, timing and hard hitting movement that was praised in the US.
To the cast’s credit they continued resiliently through all of the mistakes, and recovered to the best of their ability from any mishaps.
The leads had some shining moments, but overall delivered an average performance. Alex Lewtas as Campbell carried the show well. Her vocals were sufficient for the role and she ably managed the larger, more belt focused sections. Similarly, Kat Hoyos’ Danielle performed well, but both often sounded strained on their smaller moments, squashing their vowel sounds or lacking proper breath support. Jessica Van Wyk was a sassy and bitchy Skylar, possessing that character well. Sophy Carol as Bridget was a standout performance, bringing her own unique quality to the quirky character, and backing that up with stellar vocals. The cast as a whole needed clearer diction, as often in both song and dialogue some of the words were hard to understand or even hear.
Whilst there were many disappointing moments in the show, there were some really fun and enjoyable times, particularly the final number, where the ensemble’s energy seemed to lift. It’s a show that will get better as it becomes more polished and practiced, so hopefully by the end of the run many of these issues will be ironed out.