this Lin-Manuel Miranda musical doesn’t dazzle like Hamilton, but the routines are awesome

Back when Lin-Manuel Miranda was working on Hamilton, he was also co-writing the hip-hop score and lyrics for this 2011 Broadway musical based on the 2000 teen movie starring Kirsten Dunst, and even the the most objective observer is unlikely to argue. what a show got the best of it. Bring It On is at best in the second division compared to the brilliance of the Hamilton championship, having neither the narrative complexity ahead of this score which breaks the genres nor its melodic dazzle causing delirium. But partly blame it on the material, maybe: Bring it On is, after all, about cheerleading.

And yet, not just cheerleading. The original film, in which an all-white high school team slash the hip-hop moves of an all-black team, wrapped a disarming plot around an early but superficial look at cultural appropriation. That plot is tweaked here by Jeff Whitty (who also wrote Avenue Q): This time the ruthlessly ambitious cheerleader team leader Campbell (Amber Davis) is “districted” from his wealthy white high school Truman in Jackson ( we know she’s rawer and more diverse since, in Guy Unsworth’s roughly coded production, everyone at Jackson wears hoodies and lockers are covered in graffiti). Determined, nonetheless, to win the National Cheerleader Championships, Campbell persuades young hip-hop people to enter the championships under false pretenses, sparking a botched confrontation with Jackson’s team leader Danielle over the importance of friendship rather than winning.

Whitty’s book retains the wry humor and conscious nerve of the early teenage films of the Noughties years while reinforcing just about everything its script sends out. So, Chloe Pole’s deliciously bitchy Skylar skewers sow the seeds of the moment when Bridget, the slightly chubby and therefore nominated Truman School doofus – a cheerful and winning Chelsea Hall – might, in another musical, have the chance to sing. his feelings. Two minutes later, Davies’ rather plastic Campbell fervently sings precisely this kind of song. More problematically, Danielle frostily tells Campbell that “it’s not like one of those movies where a white girl is sent to a scary black school and fixes them.” Except, to a certain extent, it is. Plus, it’s also a story of a white woman, told from Campbell’s point of view, with Danielle (a beautiful performance by Vanessa Fisher) never having the agency she needs.

Yet the point of this musical is not politics, but routines. Miranda’s dynamic heavy bass score comes into its own here, pushing the display forward after the thrilling display of ensemble backflip choreography, with Olympic gymnast turned performer Louis Smith adding some extra athleticism to Team Jackson. It’s technically brilliant and effortlessly cool. And while the characters are largely two-dimensional, the cast exudes a lot of compensatory charisma – whether it’s trans performer Jal Joshua as Jackson La Cienega’s fun dancer or Alicia Belgarde as Nemesis. Campbell, Eva. There are better YA shows right now (The Ocean at the End of the Road and The Curious Dog Incident at Night), but none offer such simple fun as this.


Until January 22. Tickets : bringitonthemusical.co.uk

James C. Tibbs