Set in San Francisco, this All American musical takes one of the best things about college sport and somehow adds even more glitz and glamour.
When the prim princess Campbell Davis (Hannah Burridge) becomes Cheer Captain of the preppy Truman High School (THS) cheerleading squad, she is convinced she is finally fulfilling her destiny. However, an unexpected re-districting rips this Queen Bee from the centre of attention and dumps her in the urban Jackson High School (JHS). Joining her is Bridget (Stefanie Caccamo), a nerdy outcast who was once Truman’s mascot, and together they try to learn to belong.
At JHS, the dance crew girls Danielle (Melissa Russo), Nautica (Stephanie Wall) and the fabulous La Cienega (Hayden Baum) rule the roost, and they aren’t having a bar of Campbell’s privileged life. The Miley Cyrus to Campbell’s Hannah Montana, Danielle brings a whole lot of independent Latina heat that Campbell struggles to handle. While Bridget finds acceptance with the popular kids for the first time, Campbell’s exclusion causes her to sink into sorrowful despondence.
Meanwhile at THS, the cunning Eva, once Campbell’s Sophomore Spirit Leader, has manipulated her way to become Cheer Captain and seduced Campbell’s puppy-dog boyfriend Steven (Joshua Firman). Like Lake Baikal in Summer, Christina Odam is icy as the fake and effervescent Eva.
Discovering Eva has jealously orchestrated all her pain, Campbell’s fire returns and she persuades the dance crew girls to form a cheerleading squad. With clear eyes and full hearts, they begin a journey to take on Eva and her army of prancing Barbie and Ken Dolls at Nationals.
The WA Academy of Performing Arts’ annual mid-year musical is a feel-good undertaking with flashy costumes, a huge cast and lots of big numbers centred on actual cheerleading and hip-hop dance. Bouncing around with gymnastic athleticism and an alluring fluidity that will leave you agog, the déshabillé second and third tier Music Theatre students belted out tunes with an assured confidence and voice that marked many of them as destined for stardom. With the orchestra pit filled with WAAPA Music students, the production was rich with local talent.
With set design by acclaimed designer Steve Nolan (Anything Goes, Crazy for You), and lighting design by Helpmann Award-winner Mark Howett (Cloudstreet, The Secret River), their collaboration produced an audio-visual element that greatly embellished the performance.
Beyond the name itself, it’s hard to compare the musical to the hit film that inspired it. Though they share the pursuit of a National Championship, the plot is otherwise different and the musical goes without the iconic scenes from the film (e.g. spirit fingers). The songs devised by librettist Jeff Whitty and lyricists Tom Kitt and Lin-Manuel Miranda do not stand out and electrify in the same way as those from an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical – there’s no song equal to “Memory” or “The Phantom of the Opera” – but the musical is one of the best complete packages I’ve seen.
At times goofy and a little heavy-handed when espousing the lessons learnt along the way, this Broadway-quality spectacle is pure entertainment, and though my expectations were high, this far exceeded them.
Words by Samuel J. Cox
‘Bring It On: The Musical’ ran at the Regal Theatre until 18 June.