'Bring It On' review — Amber Davies soars in Lin-Manuel Miranda's cheerleading musical
“Who wants to humiliate themselves on national reality TV?” says highschooler Danielle to new student Campbell, played by Love Island winner Amber Davies. When the first Bring It On film premiered in 2000, making a career out of a reality TV show seemed farcical. If Love Island didn’t exist though, we may never have cast Amber Davies as Campbell, who soars in a role that she was born to play.
Campbell is a senior at Truman High who is determined to lead her team to Nationals victory. Instead, she’s forced to move to neighbouring Jackson High, where “squads” are laughed at. Just like any other high school musical — such as Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and Heathers — teens learn about love, friendship, and coming together for the greater good. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a teen musical with more energy and spirit than Bring It On though, as every moment and choreographic beat punches through the show.
Dancing takes the spotlight in Bring It On, and Fabian Aloise’s choreography has a current, commercial feel with a real edge. When the whole cast is dancing in unison, there’s a palpable electricity around the auditorium. The Bring It On cast have drilled their routines within an inch of their life, and notable mentions go to “Do Your Own Thing,” as well as the final throwdowns in “Legendary” and “Cross The Line.” Match that with Tom Kitt, Amanda Green, and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s score (yes, there's Hamilton-esque melodies) and the end result is sensational.
Davies commands attention as the pocket rocket cheerleader, strutting around the stage with ease, as well as delivering a touching solo number, “One Perfect Moment.” Having played the role during her professional training, Davies plays Campbell like seeing a homecoming queen return to her rightful position. There’s also an appearance from Olympian and Strictly winner Louis Smith, who delivers a solid musical theatre debut as Cameron. Naturally, the crowd went wild for his flips and tumbles, and he oozes boy band charm in rap solos, even if he does look slightly too old to be playing a highschooler.
Vanessa Fisher gives a brazen performance as Jackson’s original queen bee Danielle, expertly supported by Georgia Bradshaw as Nautica and Jal Joshua as La Cienega. Their performances pair well against Alicia Belgarde’s somewhat manicial performance as Truman High cheerleader Eva, whose “Killer Instinct” cut through like a knife. There’s also a hilarious supporting performance from Chelsea Hall, who plays Bridget, the parrothead mascot.
Libby Watson’s clever gym set balances scene changes easily, and moving stairs allow the audience to feel like they’re sitting under the bleachers. Susan Kulkarni’s costume design is plucked from a Y2K capsule wardrobe, and Matt Daw's lighting provides a concert atmosphere. Guy Unsworth has directed Bring It On into the present day with ease. There’s now references to “Meghan and Harry,” cryptocurrency, and a few death drops sprinkled in for good measure. Forget festive cheer this winter, Bring It On puts cheer sport firmly on London’s map, and I defy anyone to leave Bring It On without a big smile.
Photo credit: Bring It On cast (Photo by Helen Maybanks)