“Hild Bede Theatre knocked it out of the park – or off the mat perhaps?”
As a musical theatre lover, and former competitive cheerleader, I was trepidatious about how well the two would combine, especially in an amateur production. Safe to say Hild Bede Theatre knocked it out of the park – or off the mat perhaps?
Bring It On follows high school senior Campbell in her quest for national championship amidst transfers, bullies and a whole lot of camp naughties fun! Mia Shambrook as Campbell keeps the show going and is an incredible triple threat, navigating the difficult rap and impressive belting with equal dexterity. She also dances as well as anybody in the show (which is difficult in a crew of dancers this good) and truly earns the title of leading lady. At her side throughout is scene-stealer Charlie Holliday, the charming and hilarious Bridget. Holliday takes every line she’s handed and crafts it into something hilarious, and even when the attention isn’t on her twerks and generally has a great time. She provides a great amount of heart to what could easily be just another chick flick.
Throughout the show, the choreography is very impressive, probably the most ambitious I’ve seen for a college musical. Yet both the cheer and the dance really hold up, a credit to co-choreographers Emma Clarke and Clara Dammann. Mentions must go to Charlotte Gambardella, who throws standing back tucks and layouts on hardfloor like it’s nothing, and Hannah Kisiala, whose bow and arrow at the climax of the show is an utter triumph.
I’d be remiss not to mention the excellent direction from Niamh Kelliher and Alex Hart. Despite a minimal set, and the uphill battle that is staging a show in Caedmon Hall, the show feels complete, and there’s a cohesive vision which transports you to a version of 2003 high school which entertains the audience at every possible twist and turn. I appreciated the choice to have all the adults as voices of stage (very Peanuts-esque), which served to make the teenagers’ conflict feel even more real.
This realism is also greatly assisted by tech from Angus Webb-Hammond and Aaron Lo. Hearing that a show is in Caedmon Hall often ellicits a cringe, but by setting up a truss stage right as well as using two sets of T Bars, the vast stage is fully and effectively lit, using a variety of coloured gels that feel apt and well considered. This feat is especially impressive knowing that the technicians were busking the whole show! There were a couple of audio balancing issues, but I think this came from a lack of sufficient radio mics and the presence of a drumkit. Although this is a shame, and some quieter singing is lost to the band, it doesn’t greatly compromise the quality show.
With the band being quite loud, it’s fortunate they’re so good! The musicians sound great throughout, and recreate the difficult music of Lin Manuel-Miranda with ease throughout the show, thanks to musical director Josh Man. The band heightens the whole show, providing even more heart to Danielle’s (Lola Babalola) singing, and a comic backdrop to Alex Wishart and Cesca Horgan’s antagonism.
In summary, Bring It On is a great show, and with exams around the corner, you ought to treat yourself to this show!
By Georgia Malkin
Photo Credits: Hilde Bede Theatre