Bring It On The Musical: High school high jinks from Lin-Manuel Miranda ***
- Credit: Helen Maybanks
Earlier in his career, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda co-wrote the tunes and lyrics to this musical loosely based on the hit 2000 cheerleading movie.
It gets a spirited revival at the Southbank Centre's Queen Elizabeth Hall with pulse-racing backflips and joyful, upbeat choreography (Fabian Aloise) by a talented cast who sing, dance, act and pull off impressive acrobatics.
Channelling something of Heathers or Mean Girls, it's a self-aware over the top cheer-off between squeaky clean Truman High and down at heel, streetwise Jackson.
Love Island winner Amber Davies is Campbell, the teen queen bidding against Chloe Pole's superbly backbiting Skylar to lead Truman's squad to The Nationals. The opening numbers move slickly if at times blandly through tryouts, cheer camp and ballads about long held dreams. And just as you are pining for some grit, Campbell gets 'redistricted' to the other side of the tracks where you have to pass through metal detectors to get to class.
Of course a school where pupils are rapping, popping and locking is far more exhilarating than the white preppy academy, and numbers like Do Your Own Thing and the showstopping It's All Happening by Jackson's dance crew - headed by Vanessa Fisher's fabulously haughty Danielle - inject much needed attitude into proceedings.
The presence of real life Olympic champ Louis Smith tumbling and balancing ups the skill level as Campbell persuades the crew to become a cheerleading squad.
There are friendship wrangles, a scheming manipulator, a love story between Davies' sweet-voiced Campbell and Jackson student Randall that never quite lifts off, and enjoyable underdog versus top dog cheerleading routines on Libby Watson's set of bleachers, lockers and sports hall.
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Guy Unsworth's production could perhaps do with more quirky invention, but the nicely played themes of class, prejudice, bravery and acceptance - Chelsea Hall's charming underconfident Bridget, Jal Joshua's high-kicking trans student La Cinega - feel valuable and well earned.
Until January 22.