Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

Bring It On—The Musical
Beck Center for the Arts
Review by Review by Mark Horning

Also see David's review of The King and I and Mark's reviews of The Wiz and The Whale


Kailey Boyle (center top) and Cast
Photo by Roger Mastroianni
For those familiar with Broadway, some surprising names pop up on the program's title page of Bring It On—The Musical (now appearing at The Beck Center for the Arts). Teamed up are Tom Kitt of Next To Normal (music), Amanda Green of High Fidelity (lyrics), Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton and In the Heights (music and lyrics), and Jeff Whitty of Avenue Q (libretto) in this musical very loosely based on the movie Bring It On. While not quite living up to the high bar of these five Broadway blockbusters, the show does manage to strike a chord with its target audience.

This particular production is a collaborative effort between the Beck Center and Baldwin Wallace University's Musical Arts Program. The show includes students and alumni of the University in the form of director Will Brandsetter, music director Peter Van Reesema, associate music director Alyssa Kay Thompson and cheer choreographer Mary Sheridan, stage manager Lucas Clark and Tyler Hawes on drums as well as nearly the entire cast.

For fans of the movie, don't expect a copy here. Jeff Whitty has changed up the script, plugging in various adolescent types more for entertainment purposes rather than enlightenment. If you're looking for Shakespeare, you ain't gonna find it here.

Campbell (Kailey Boyle) is the whiter than white newly elected high school cheer captain of Truman High (a predominately white school in an affluent neighborhood). Her best friend Bridget (Shelby Griswold) is the school's perennial mascot due to her weight. Campbell is involved with a sweet but brainless jock named Steven (Jonathan Young) and surrounded by her cheer posse Skylar (Victoria Pippo), Kylar (MacKenzie Wright), and sophomore newcomer Eva (Abby DeWitte), who, while congratulatory on the surface, hopes that Campbell will impale herself on a sharp object.

Life is good for Campbell until the summer of her senior year when she learns that, due to redistricting she will now be attending the struggling, primarily black inner-city Jackson High School (her house is the only one on her side of the street that is changed over). On her first day at Jackson High she is met by Bridget, who has been instantly accepted by the students and soon lands a boyfriend as well as a place on the hip-hop crew.

Being the perky can-do wunderkind, Campbell fights for a spot on the school's hip-hop dance crew after a performance as the school's leprechaun mascot. Once on the crew she convinces Danielle (Shayla Brielle) and her posse Nautica (Joy Del Valle) and La Cienega (brilliantly played by Michael Canada) to restart the cheer program (previously outlawed at the school due to an incident years before). The one snag is that Campbell's promise of a TV appearance and scholarships for winning regional and national cheer competitions is a lie. Taking over the crew (now squad), Campbell sets her sights on beating her former Truman team now headed by Eva (whose school board mother may have played a hand in Campbell's school redistricting change).

The Jackson High cheer squad scores a second place finish in the regional competition (bested only by Truman High) and is set to go to nationals when the Jackson squad learns of Campbell's false promise. The squad disbands. Campbell apologizes to Danielle and, although still hurt by the lying, she agrees to reform the squad. The show comes to a climax as the two schools compete for the national championship.

While it is in many ways formulaic, predictable, and with stereotypical characterizations, Bring It On—The Musical manages to take the thin script to a higher level than one would expect. The show is filled with a number of throw away tunes that are neither hummable nor memorable but serve their purpose. Think of this as a scaled down version of Fame or The High School Musical.

What makes this production shine is, of course, the cast, coupled with the brilliant choreography of Martin Cespedes and cheer choreography of Mary Sheridan. The costuming by Esther M. Haberlen differentiates well between the two school cultures, even into the cheer costumes. While the set by Jordan Janota is rather stark and spartan, it allows plenty of room for the various ensemble dance and cheer numbers that are performed with energy and precision.

The big problem with the show is, once again, the sound system in the Beck Center's Mackey Theater—in spite of sound designer Carlson Guc's best efforts. Even with all of the principals miked, the sound balance is so far off that it's hard to understand much of the individual dialogue. This is particularly true in the front portion "dead zone" of the seating area.

Bring It On—The Musicalis a family friendly show that even the younger family members will enjoy. This production will continue to fill the theater with sell-out crowds, mostly due to the performance level of the cast and crew and in spite of the weak script and non-memorable music. Get your ticket early to avoid missing this well performed show.

Through February 26, 2017, at Beck Center for the Arts, 17801 Detroit Avenue in Lakewood, OH, just ten minutes west of downtown Cleveland. Free onsite parking is available. Tickets are $31 for adults, $27 for seniors (65 and older), and $12 for students with a valid I.D. A $3 service fee per ticket will be applied at time of purchase. Group discounts are available for parties of four or more. Tickets may be purchased online at beckcenter.org or by calling Customer Service at 216-521-2540 ext. 10.


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