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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Plenty of Lin-Manuel Miranda Magic in Beck Center's 'Bring It On'

Posted By on Tue, Feb 14, 2017 at 11:56 AM

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If you’ve heard all the hoopla about Hamilton and would like to sample some of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical magic, there’s a heaping helping of it in Bring It On, now at the Beck Center in Lakewood. Combining often fast-paced lyrics with driving, percussive music, this show about high school cheerleaders, based on the film of the same name, transcends its rather mundane subject matter and often soars.

In this piece, Miranda was the co-composer (with Tom Kitt) and the co-lyricst (with Amanda Green), but his signature style is suffused throughout. Even though the storyline (libretto by Jeff Whitty) is pretty pedestrian—two high school cheerleading teams facing off for the big trophy…yippee—the music and the performances by lots of young performers make it an event not to be missed.

This 30-person cast moves with remarkable precision as they sing, executing the imaginative choreography designed by dance master Martin Cespedes. And along the way, a couple featured performers manage to elbow aside the clichés and actually make an emotional impact.

One of these is Kailey Boyle who plays Campbell, a white girl from the privileged Truman High School who has everything going for her, including a pleasantly doofus boyfriend Steven (a constantly dazzled Jonathan Young). But once she is transferred to Jackson High School in a dumpier part of town, thanks to the Machiavellian machinations of sophomore cheerleader Eva (a sneakily snarky Abby DeWitte), her cheerleading dreams appear to be over. Eva is, cleverly, a pint-sized Eve Harrington with pom-poms, echoing the ambitious title character in All About Eve.

Anyhow, you can probably sketch out the plot from there, as mean girl Skylar (Victoria Pippo) and outcast girl Bridget (Shelby Griswold) play their parts in making high school that place you’re so glad you escaped. Griswold is particularly effective in capturing the endearing humor of a nerdy, awkward girl with a heart of gold.

Other standouts in the cast include Shayla Brielle, who gives Danielle a strong presence as a leader of the dance “crew” at Jackson H.S. And Cameron (Matthew Harris) and Twig (David Holbert) make the hip-hop song “It’s All Happening” sparkle.

Director Will Brandstetter keeps the pace properly pumped, and conductor Peter Van Reesma’s orchestra provides a full, rich sound for the actors—many of whom are from the Baldwin Wallace University musical theater program.

Your interest in cheerleading competitions may be minimal, or nonexistent, but this effusive production will have you standing and applauding at the final curtain.

Bring It On, The Musical
Through February 26 at Beck Center, 17801 Detroit Avenue, Lakewood, 216-521-2540.

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