by Lorie Lewis Ham
The variety of theatre going on in the Valley right now is astounding! A couple of weeks ago I saw Memphis, which is not only beautiful but moving. This past weekend I saw Urinetown which is flat out hilarious, and the musical Bring It On which is fun, and at times inspiring. Another one of our reviewers saw Into the Woods this week, which is fairytale fun.
Bring It On: The Musical is loosely based on the movie of the same name, which focuses on the world of competitive high school cheerleading. The music was written by Tim Kitt and the very well known Lin-Manuel Miranda, with lyrics by Amanda Green and Miranda. The book is by Jeff Whitty. In the musical, a cheerleader named Campbell (Kenzie Stafford) is dreaming of being made captain of her cheerleading squad at Truman High School for her senior year. She feels like everything is coming together for her life and her goal of the team winning at Nationals. One of my favorite songs of the show is when Campbell becomes captain and sings “One Perfect Moment.” Her fellow cheerleaders include Skylar (Kathryn Fleener) who is ditsy, vain and beautiful, and Kylar (London Garcia took this role on right after opening night when Caitlin Stahl blew her knee out).
But Campbell’s whole world falls apart when she is suddenly redistricted to Jackson High School on the poor side of town. Campbell’s friend Bridget (Abby Halpern), who was told at Truman she wasn’t good enough to be a cheerleader, ends up at Jackson with Campbell. At Jackson, it is Bridget who fits in with the in crowd not Campbell. Jackson has an amazing dance crew run by Jackson student Danielle (Kay Wilkins), and which includes Nauticia (Nia Luchau), and transgender teen girl La Cienaga (Jimmy Haynie), but no cheerleading squad. Campbell sets out to try to change that when she learns that freshman Eva (Maya Sosa) has manipulated her way into becoming squad captain at Truman and Campbell wants to get revenge by beating her at Nationals.
I enjoy a fun high school story and this one is filled with amazing dancing, fun music, and some very talented actors. But even beyond that, there is the story of learning what really matters in life, and the importance of friendship and the acceptance of others, and of yourself. I also LOVE that the fact that La Cienaga is a transgender girl isn’t played up to make a point, she just is who she is and everyone loves and accepts her, which is how the world should be. According to a Playbill article about the show, that is exactly what Jeff Whitty’s goal was with this character. La Cienaga was the first transgender teen character on Broadway. Jimmy Haynie was absolutely wonderful in this role in the Selma Arts Production! Kay as Danielle has a voice that just knocks it out of the park every time. Maya is a tiny bundle of fire with an incredible voice (who first blew me away as Esmeralda in CMT’s production of Hunchback of Notre Dame), and scarily good at being evil. Kenzie does an excellent job all the way around as Campbell. Tim Smith plays Randall, the boy that Campbell falls for at Jackson, and well I’d listen to him sing the phone book-his voice is soooo beautiful!
I could go on and on about this wonderfully diverse cast-they all did a great job, and major kudos to director/choreographer Michael Christopher Flores. Also, a special hats off to London-you would never know she learned the role overnight!
If you enjoy a good high school story like I do, and you enjoy great dancing, fun music, some laughs, and the message of acceptance, don’t miss Bring It On! It is on stage at the Selma Arts Center, 1935 High St, Selma, CA, through July 28. Tickets can be purchased online and at the door.