Saturday, February 18, 2017

Dynamic choreography lights up the stage in Beck Center’s Bring It On: The Musical

Mention Lin-Manuel Miranda and the musical sensation Hamilton comes to mind.  If not, then, In the Heights, which had a run at Beck Center last year, is noted.  Few know Miranda also wrote both the music and lyrics, along with Tom Kitt and Amanda Green for Bring It On:  The Musical, with book by Jeff Whitty, which is loosely based on the 2000 film of the same name.  The script centers on the competitive world of cheerleading, with side stories about bullying, teen angst and determining what’s important in the world.

The story centers on Campbell Davis (Kailey Boyle) who has achieved her goal of being elected captain of the Truman High School co-ed cheerleading squad.  Through manipulation of the school district boundaries by the mother of Eva (Abby DeWitte), a devious sophomore, Campbell and her friend Bridget (Shelby Griswold), who can’t make the cheer squad because of her heft, are transferred to Jackson High, a predominately black school, with (horror of horrors) no cheerleading squad.

In her exile, Campbell leaves behind, Steven (Jonathan Young), her studly boyfriend, her chances at a national cheerleading championship and her role as “queen bee.”

As must happen in tales of teenage angst, Campbell and Bridget win over the originally hostile students at their new school, forms a cheerleading squad, and go on to compete in the national competition. 

Though the outcome is not what “after school specials” are usually made of, the conclusion is pleasing, the moral well honed. 

If the standing ovation and tween girls who were seated in front of me, who sat on the edge of their seats, often jumping up and down with squeals of excitement, are representative, the audience will love this show in spite of its soap opera tale.

Bring It On: The Musical opened on Broadway in August, 2012 and closed in December of that year.  Termed “a high-energy stage spectacle,” it opened to generally positive reviews, with special praise for its dance numbers.  It was also praised for Manuel’s “sassy libretto.” It was nominated for Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Choreography.

The power of Beck/Baldwin Wallace College’s staging is Martin Céspedes’ spot-on choreography and Mary Sheridan’s cheerleading stunts which take the show to a high level of pleasurable excitement.

Céspedes creatively lets loose.  Constant motion rocks the stage with hip hop, poppin’, breakdancing, freestyle moves, isolations, jerkin’, krumping and freezes being showcased.  This is a lesson in modern street dancing vocabulary and forms. 

What’s compelling is that the moves are being performed by music theatre majors, not trained cheerleaders and free form dancers.  The BW cast are performing dangerous human pyramids and athletic movements which normally take years to perfect and do safely, and dancing which requires years to learn the body control to achieve the moves. 

Director Will Brandstetter keeps the show moving swiftly along and has done a nice job of helping the large cast develop realistic characterizations.

The cast, Baldwin Wallace University musical theatre majors, is excellent.  They are well trained as performers, and it shows in their performances.

Shelby Griswold (Bridget) has a wonderful sense of comic timing. Her mobile face and line interpretations light up the stage.  David Holbert (Twig, Bridget’s boyfriend) also displays strong comic chops.

Kailey Boyle not only looks like the stereotype blond, cute cheerleader, but is convincing in creating a real Campbell.  Shayla Brielle effectively wails and dances up a storm as Danielle, the leader of the “Queen Bees” of Jackson High.  Mike Cefalo is appealing as Campbell’s new boyfriend.

Michael Canada’s convincing and humorous cross-dressing performance La Cienega made him an audience favorite.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Bring It On: The Musical is not a great script, but with a talented cast, high energy dancing, creative choreography, compelling gymnastics, and a dynamic musical score, Beck appears to have another cash cow on its hands as large audiences should fill up the theatre.

Bring It On: The Musical is scheduled to run until February 26, 2017 at Beck Center for the Arts.  For tickets and information call 216-521-2540 or go on line to
Next at Beck: The regional premiere of A Great Wilderness tells the tale of a gay conversion therapy camp in the remote Idaho woods. (March 3-April 9, 2017)