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Canberra Today 3°/9° | Saturday, April 13, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Much to like as Philo totally brings it on!

Bring it On: The Musical… The joy of this production is the succession of exuberant large-scale dance routines. Photo: Bridie Mackay

Musical Theatre / Bring It On: The Musical, Canberra Philharmonic Society. At Erindale Theatre until March 16. Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

Bring It On is the second musical seen in Canberra this month with music by Tom Kitt. It’s also the first seen in this city to bear the stamp of prolific composer/lyricist and all-round creative superstar, Lin-Manuel Miranda who collaborated with both Kitt for the music and Amanda Green for the lyrics for this musical. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda is responsible for a slew of popular musicals of which In the Heights, Bring It On and of course, Hamilton, are the most famous. 

Based on a film of the same name, Bring it On: The Musical, follows the travails of two opposing college cheerleading teams and the varying ambitions of their members. It is packed with catchy songs and spectacular dance routines and contains many of the tropes of other Miranda musicals expressing his interest in championing contemporary POC and youth issues. As such, it is an excellent choice by Canberra Philo for the many opportunities it offers to showcase the talents of its current membership of accomplished young multi-cultural performers. 

The joy of this production is the succession of exuberant large-scale dance routines, cleverly created by choreographer Charlotte Morphett. For these Morphett has combined essential cheerleading skills with Broadway pizazz to produce some truly thrilling acrobatic routines that were performed with obvious joy and admiral precision by the large cast.

Unfortunately, on opening night, over-amplification of Alexander Unikowski’s excellent band, drowned out most of the song lyrics, and over-enthusiastic delivery made much of the dialogue unintelligible. 

It was therefore difficult to follow much of the storyline, particularly that dealing with the customs and intricacies of American college life. As well, many of the witty quips were lost. No doubt, both these difficulties will be quickly rectified for future performances.

Outstanding among the large cast, Jessica Gowing gives an appealing central performance as Campbell, the catalyst for much of the angst between the teams. Flaunting an impressive killer instinct, Hannah Lance is hilarious as the conniving, sweetly bitchy Eva determined to knock Campbell off her perch. 

Katie Lis steals every scene she’s in as Bridget, the lovable, nerdy outcast while Jess Marshall (Danielle) strongly supported by Diana Caban Velez (Nautica) and Kavitha Sivasamy (La Cienega) make a formidable trio as the Queen Bees of Jackson High. 

Grayson Woodham gives an attractive performance as Campbell’s crush, Randall, their second-act duet, Enjoy The Trip, providing one of the vocal highlights of the show. Ashleigh Maynard (Skylar), Frank Shanahan (Steven) and Jeremy Chan (Twig) all offered strong support with individual standout moments. 

Set Designer, Ian Crocker and Lighting Designer, Alex Clifford, have combined their prodigious talents to produce a visually simple, but technically complex environment for the action, with plenty of room for the huge dance numbers, spacious exits and entrances for the large cast, colourful projections and even some spectacular pyrotechnics. 

Jennie Gibson’s colourful cheer squad costumes enhance Morphett’s energetic choreography, and elsewhere, are attractive and flattering. 

Bring It On might with its highly predictable storyline might never become one of the classic musicals, but it’s certainly a delightful ensemble show offering plenty of opportunities for an enthusiastic young cast. 

When presented with the amount of skill and attention to detail that has obviously been lavished on this production by everyone involved, it guarantees a delightfully entertaining experience for the whole family. Director, Isaac Gordon and his team have much to be proud of with this, his first production for the Canberra Philharmonic Society.

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