By Grace Niesel
I was a bit wary stepping into the North Carolina Theatre Conservatory Master Summer Theatre Arts School’s (STAS) production of Bring It On. I mean, seriously, they made that into a musical instead of coming up with something original? Fortunately, this production is much better than I imagined it would be.
Part of the production’s success is the site-specific location, the Hermann Athletic Center at William Peace University. They’ve re-imagined the basketball court, positioned the band on the bleachers, and staged the entire show on gymnastic mats. Another plus is the fact that for once, a show about and for teenage girls actually stars teenage girls. It also doesn’t hurt that these particular teenagers are also insanely talented.
Chloe Calhoun manages to deconstruct her character, Campbell, and rebuild her into something different. Instead of simply portraying someone who has had something taken away from her, she has all the insecurities and paranoia of an actual teenager. She makes bad decisions, recognizes them, and instead of giving a half-hearted apology, makes her apology heartfelt. In addition, her chemistry with Charlie Byrd’s Danielle is through the roof. I could write a detailed analysis of their characters’ relationship alone.
On the topic of Charlie Byrd’s Danielle, her soulful ballad to Campbell feels like a heartbreaking love song that, I’m not ashamed to say, sounds better than the original Broadway cast recording.
But what shocks me the most about this production is how Michael Phillips brings life to a character who, in my opinion, stands as one of the blandest love interests in all musical theatre. Phillips manages to find some purpose outside of simply being the love interest for Campbell, and that’s a good thing.
Humor is a big part of this show as well, with sex jokes galore, along with some genuinely funny (not necessarily crude) humor. Greyson Huneycutt’s Bridget gears up for a big solo and is cut off by the mean girl of Truman High, Skylar (Whitley Lynn). Even my dad cackled beside me. Eva’s big solo, Killer Instinct, sung by Ellen Pierce, is also hilarious.
I was also pleasantly surprised to see Grace Boudah cast as Nautica, part of Jackson High School’s “Big Three” along with Charlie Byrd’s Danielle and Nico Jerez’s La Cienega. A casual representation of transgender women always makes me happy, and she and Jerez make a lovely pair, a good mix of humor and self-positivity.
With a talented ensemble consisting of middle and high school students, North Carolina Theatre Conservatory’s production Bring It On is filled to the brim with athleticism and good performances. In fact, there are so many rising stars in this cast, it may as well be set in a planetarium instead of a gymnasium, making this one show you don’t want to miss.
Bring It On runs through Sunday at the Hermann Athletic Center at William Peace University. For more information visit: https://nctheatre.com/page/bring-it-on.