Cheerleading is one of those controversial activities with many debating on if it is or isn’t it a sport. But, all controversy aside, there’s one thing everyone can agree on: when you put a bunch of girls in a room, drama will ensue. And let’s be honest – petty rivalries are just a little bit funny when it’s put on stage and dramatized. Perhaps that’s why the Starting Arts Dream Team took on the task of performing Bring it On The Musical Jan. 15-17 at the Santa Clara High School Performing Arts Center.
With music and lyrics by Tony and Grammy Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda (“In the Heights”), Bring it On: The Musical combines Miranda’s difficult rap-song style with flips and twirls seen at cheer competitions; but don’t expect the musical to be anything like the film of the same name. It’s about a young girl battling against a rival high school team to win the National Cheer Championship, while losing her boyfriend, finding a new beau and learning about friendship and integrity in the process. OK…maybe that part is very similar to the film, but everything else is different – mostly.
Bring It On: The Musical begins at the end of Campbell’s (Gwyneth Forrester/Helena Sherman) junior year where she hopes to be named captain of the Truman High School cheerleading squad. Unfortunately, over the course of the summer, the district lines are redrawn and Davis finds herself transferred to inner-city Jackson High School, which is nothing like preppy Truman – they don’t even have a cheer squad! They do, however, have a dance crew, led by Jackson’s “queen bee” Danielle (Audrey Small/Valeria Johnson) and her girls Nautica (Sierra Weston/Madelyn Davis) and La Cienega (Jon Toussaint).
Through a series of equally unfortunate events, new captain Skylar (Camryn Heinkel/Nina Van Atta) and backup Kylar (Baylee Beardslee/Anya Stajner) are no longer able to perform their duties and ambitious freshman Eva (Sylvie Eisips) takes over the Truman squad, prompting Campbell to convince Danielle that Jackson must have a cheer team.
Of course, lies are told and the liars are found out, and backs are stabbed, but win or lose, the show is ultimately about honesty and friendship.
Although no single performer particularly stood out above the others (although – as a side note – Toussaint was wonderful as the transgendered La Cienega), the performance was enjoyable, albeit the cheer and dance moves felt somewhat awkward and forced at times, which may have been due to the limited Dream Team practice time.
“We practice once a week [for three hours] with these kids,” said Director Stephanie Renee Maysonave. “We started at the end of August and it’s amazing what we were able to accomplish in such a short period of time … On Broadway they had two years to learn this choreography so I’m pretty proud of what we were able to accomplish.”
Starting Arts is a local non-profit, which brings arts education to 92 Bay Area schools and reaches 28,000 kids every year. The Dream Team is an invitation/audition only program for actors, singers and dancers (triple threats) in 8-12th grade. Visit www.startingarts.com for more information.