Bringing it on with a full cast finale. Pictures: Jonathan Hipkiss

Bring it on – The Musical

The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham


A galaxy of new stars are shining bright in this sparkling production from Stage Experience in a gala night full of infectious enthusiasm and no mean shortage of talent.

Laura Bryan, in the lead role of Campbell, ticks every theatrical box you can think of; she has a fabulous voice with a great range, she is attractive, she can dance, she can act and she commands the stage as if it is her natural habitat.

Campbell is the deposed golden girl of Truman High. The newly elected cheerleader captain with a shining future mapped out, ousted by a coup organised by sweet, not as innocent as she seems, next door neighbour Eva and her mum, who just happens to run the committee that decided on school catchment areas . . . and Campbell just falls outside the newly imposed boundaries.

It means she has to leave Truman, which looks like a suburban middle class bastion complete with its top cheerleader squad, and go to Jackson High – which is not so much high, as low; think inner city, yoof culture, with no cheerleaders since an unfortunate incident (punch up and riot) some years ago.

Meanwhile, under the rules of succession at Truman, with a poor exam result and an illness for first and second replacments, who is the new cheerleader captain – step forward little Eva.

Bessy Hingley is a sweet Eva with a nasty, hard centre and a big, big voice. She manages the transition for supposed hero worship of Campbell to her true, manipulative, nasty self quite brilliantly – just don’t cross her is the advice.

The squad has its leading figures with Skylar, played by Alexia Mouzakitis, who expected the Captaincy, and her faithful follower Kylar, played by Holly Boden, who both add wonderful support to the story while at the bottom of the pile is Bridget, played by Eden Wedgbrow.


Bessy Hingley as scheming Eva in her Campbell lookalike bedroom

Briget is the cheerleader mascot, dressed as a parrot, and desperately wants to be part of the squad, but seemed destined to be in a parrot costume for life – that is until she was sort of redistributed to Jackson as well.

Then there is Steven, Campbell’s boyfriend(ish), you suspect he is not too taken by the idea of  monogamy. Steven is a bit young for a lounge environment so perhaps is more of a locker lizard, played with a sort of naive charm by Freddie Holt in what appears to be a Michael Fabricant wig.

We see Eva style her bedroom on Campbell’s, wear her uniform, and even take over Steven – a task not too hard you suspect - but it does show a trend, hero worship going beyond imitation to simply complete transformation. Once discovered the Campbell and Steven show is over

Meanwhile, way over on the other side of the tracks, Campbell, with Bridget in tow, rocks up at Jackson, with what appears to be security checks on entry, presumably for knives and the odd AK47s – it’s a rough old school.

They don’t have a cheerleader squad, they have a hip hop crew so enter Brittany Jarman-Watson as their boss, Danielle, another who stakes out the stage as her territory and another big, clear voice to savour.

Just for balance she has her own acolytes in the shape of Nautica played by Demi Mitchell and La Cienega, played by Molly Ann Bache, who add an element of danger to proceedings, not the sort of girls you take home to meet mother maybe, but splendid fun in lovely performances.

Then there is Twig, played by K’Vae Brown, who is a great mover, including a move for Bridget who seems to have completely stolen his heart. He also gives us a machine gun speed rap, which was mighty impressive.

With Steven now rapidly receding in the rear view mirror along comes Randall, played by Kieran Powell, a steady Eddy of a character, the same age as Campbell but with a much older outlook on life and a fine, gentle tenor voice.

campbelll and Danielle

Laura Bryan as Campbell and Brittany Jarman-Watson as Danielle


Without too much of a spoiler Campell had persuaded Danielle and her crew to become a cheerleading squad enticing them with a pack of lies of the bright future on offer, when in reality all you get us a trophy and the real reason she wanted cheerleaders was to take on her ex-friend and now nemesis Eva at the national cheerleading finals.

When the crew find out it all goes belly up big time and Campbell, now the Jackson pariah, goes on a date with Randall, who seems to be the only person still talking to her, and he gives her not so much advice, telling her she will find her own answers, as offering her reassurance. “Life is longer than it feels right now.”

And, well, everything then sort of works out in this tale of friendship, rivalry, integrity, and the realisation that winning does not always come with a trophy. There is not a lot of substance to it, it’s no Les Misérables or West Side Story, but it is lively, fun and all action entertainment.

Around the leads we had a wonderful ensemble in a 70 strong cast with some spectacular dance routines which are down to the skilled hands of director and choreographer Pollyann Tanner who has become a fixture at the Alex with this 18th Stage Experience.

It is not easy to create dance routines for a large cast yet she manages it with aplomb year after year with this year the added inclusion of somersaults, back flips and all manner of cheerleader moves.

We also had a fine seven piece band under musical director Chris Newton along with a set built from scratch – nice to see school gym benches haven’t changed in 70 years or more though.

The stark fact about theatre though is that personality, a great voice and unmistakeable ability are not enough. There was plenty in this production to show the amount of talent in the West Midlands and some stand out individuals who shone as potential stars, names to look out for in the future, but theatre is a cruel mistress and luck, right place, right time, and the ghost of Thespis shining down on you all play a part in success, so all we can do is wish their hopes and dreams bon vayage.

For pure talent, enthusiasm and joy this was easily a five star performance, but it was marred by some indifferent, top heavy sound. It was a first night, which can have its own problems, but it was not well balanced, too much dialogue was distorted and lost, at times it was over loud and irritating. A pity but first night over it should now be sorted. To 19-08-23.

Roger Clarke


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