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EMAV Review: Talent competes with bright lights at SST's "Bring it On" ★★☆☆☆

★★☆☆☆ - Still Hungry

Two squads, one mission: claim the title at the National Cheerleading Championships. Bring It On: The Musical tells the story of the challenges and unexpected bonds formed through the thrill of extreme competition.

One of our most American of pastimes, cheerleading -- and the competition between rival high school cheer squads -- should be expected to take audiences on a high-flying journey filled with plenty of peppy teen-angst. Adolescent convolutions of friendship, jealousy, betrayal, and forgiveness were evident throughout the dialogue, lyrics and attitudes of this talented company of performers. But the production elements often distracted from following the action onstage.

Uniting some of the freshest and funniest creative minds on Broadway, Bring It On features an original story by Tony Award winner Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q), music and lyrics by Tony Award-winning composer Lin-Manuel Miranda (In The Heights, Hamilton), music by Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning composer Tom Kitt (Next To Normal), lyrics by Broadway lyricist Amanda Green (High Fidelity) and was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2013.

Campbell is cheer-royalty at Truman High School and her senior year should prove the most cheertastic -- she's been named captain of the squad! But an unexpected redistricting has forced her to spend her final year of high school at the neighboring, hard knock Jackson High School. Despite having the deck stacked against her, Campbell befriends the dance crew girls and, along with their headstrong and hardworking leader Danielle, manages to form a powerhouse squad for the ultimate competition -- the National Championships.

The acting ensemble successfully embodies the eagerness and excitement of adolescents throughout the entire production – especially those who flawlessly execute those high-energy gymnastics (certainly deserving of special recognition in the program). Vocally, the entire company is strong and the musical harmonies are well-balanced (to the credit of Musical/Choral Director, Dr. Mark Wherry). All of the primary characters give exemplary acting and vocal performances, including: Katie Marie Jones as Campbell; Lynnae Meyers as Skylar; Jenna Szoke as Kylar; Taylor Ann Powers as Bridget; Cody Angelo as Steven; Miranda Lopez as Eva; Jonathan Anders as Twig; Jamar Thompson as Cameron; Gianni Matteo as Randall; Kyara Isis as Nautica; Kenneth Veal as La Cienega, and Dominique Stewart as Danielle.

The understated high school setting (designed by John Saltonstall and Diane Giusti) served as an ever-present backdrop throughout the entire show, allowing other minor set pieces and drops to be easily moved onstage to signify alternate locations and the competing schools. Multi-level, rotating platform units framed the proscenium arch and effectively served as more intimate locations throughout. This scenic design also left the entire mainstage and center apron available for the high-energy, full company dance and gymnastic numbers (co-choreographed most commendably by Alex Ferdinand and Jayme Haines). The costumes (designed by Abby Stroot) were most appropriate to the period and style and accommodated the spirited action.

Regrettably, both the sound and lighting elements often distracted from the action onstage. Sound (designed by Katherine Gonzalez) was not well-balanced to allow for the lyrics and dialog of the soloists to be heard above the background music. Lighting (designed by Elizabeth Kline) – especially during several of the full company dance routines -- was directed specifically on the audience, and blinded them from seeing several of the company dance and gymnastic routines.

Super Summer Theatre & Table 8 Productions

Outdoor theatre at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park

August 10 – 27 / Wednesdays through Saturdays; Gates open at 6pm, Show begins at 8:05 pm

Directed by Troy Heard; Choreography by Alex Ferdinand and Jayme Haines; Musical Direction by Dr. Mark Wherry

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