Bring It On! - the Musical
- By gentleguide
- On Wed 18 Jul 2018
High energy, amazing stunts, and great music all come together in Bring It On! – the Musical. Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre (DMAYT) presents the show starting July 27 in the Stoner Studio Theatre at the Civic Center. The world of competitive cheerleading is set to music, and the new storyline is sure to wow audiences, who will definitely be cheering by the end of the performance!
Director Megan Helmers is no stranger to high energy, having been a cheerleader in her high school days before becoming one of the top directors and choreographers in the area. She directed last year’s production of A Chorus Line at the DM Playhouse, and Bring It On! has been on her radar for awhile.
“I’ve been looking forward to this one for such a long time,” says Helmers. “I was asked to direct and choreograph this show in March of 2017 – before I even knew I would end up working on A Chorus Line! Ever since I first saw this show when it came through Des Moines on its pre-Broadway tour, I knew I had to choreograph it.”
“I have to admit I didn’t expect very much when I first saw it, but the music is so much better than it has any right to be. I think a lot of people are surprised to hear that this show was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tom Kitt, Amanda Green, and Jeff Whitty – the writers of Hamilton, Next to Normal, Avenue Q, and many more. It’s a lot of fun, and I think people are going to be surprised at how good a ‘cheerleading musical’ really can be.”
The plot of Bring It On! – the Musical is completely different from the original movie series, with all new characters and new schools. But it’s still a story about competitive cheerleading, specifically about the battles between Truman and Jackson high schools. “This is a show that deals with ambition, honesty, and betrayal,” elaborates Helmers, “as well as turning the tables to explore bigger issues like racial and socio-economic themes. It emphasizes acceptance and individuality. At the same time, it’s just a genuinely fun, clever show that is made even more enjoyable by the smart, layered performances our high school and college-aged cast is turning in.”
There is no “I” in TEAM
The story concerns Truman High cheerleader Campbell Davis (played by Marisa Spahn, winner of top honors at the Iowa HS Musical Theatre Awards a year ago). Campbell finds her life turned upside down when she is transferred to Jackson. She has to persuade the Jackson dance crew to remake themselves as cheerleaders, and they end up competing against her former team for the Championship.
Leading these “teams” in the DMYAT production are Nick Black and Antonesia Williams, who are the dance captains for each of the competing groups. Black is currently a student at Drake and is on the cheer squad for the Bulldogs there, and Williams won an Outstanding Choreography and Stunt Coordination award for her work on an earlier production of Bring It On! at East High School. Both are excited to be creating and teaching their fellow performers about the world of cheerleading and how to make each group look like experts, when many of their cast mates had never been cheerleaders before.
Black details one of the major differences between performing this show versus being on the sidelines during a sporting event. “One of the biggest challenges I have had to come to terms with is that in a game you have the opportunity to throw up the stunt one more time if something goes wrong the first time. In the show however, we do not have that luxury, we have a set time to hit the stunt and if it fails, it fails, and we have to keep moving with the show. Dealing with people that have different skill sets compared to myself and others in the show has been very fun, even though they might not understand it the first time. You have to remember at one time you were in their shoes.”
“Some of the early conversations we had involved what cheer stunts we knew of would be considered more traditional compared to more modern and eye-catching,” Black continues. “What we did to implement these would be each squad would learn the same stunts and when we got closer to blocking we portioned out which stunts were going to be more Jackson-looking and which ones are more Truman-looking. Truman is more of a clean-cut looking team who is very traditional and fast paced, where Jackson is a lot more hip hop and a little more unconventional when it comes to stunts.”
Williams explains more of the motivations that helps make the two schools unique. “The thing that defines Truman is making sure they’re the best at what they do. Working hard and being uniformed, but doing it all as a team. For Jackson, creativity and standing out defines them. Embracing their differences and relying on each other as a team to work together. The styles are different in the competition because one team is extremely technical, while the other is there to give the audience a show while enjoying the moment and being there with their team.”
And for Williams, getting another crack at the show with DMYAT is just a bonus. “Since doing the show once already, I have the chance to really focus on my character Danielle and build her more than I did before. When I first did the show, I was so focused on doing/creating thestunts that it was hard to do both at the same time. Cheerleading and theatre are my two favorite things that I’m really passionate about. So being able to put them together and have the opportunity to do it twice is amazing to me. Everyone has their own unique perspective and are extremely talented. I’m just glad I’m a part of it!”
Bring it Outdoors!
The cast and crew of Bring It On! – the Musical don’t get that much actual time in their performance space at the Stoner before the show opens. Rehearsals have taken place at the Des Moines Onstage building on Grand Avenue. But adjustments have had to be made, especially for the unique requirements of a cheerleading musical….
As Helmers relates, “The Bring It On! cast ranges in age from 14-22, with the average age right between older high school and younger college students. We have several members of our cast who were a part of East’s production of Bring It On! – they immediately came to us with a certain level of comfortability with stunts. And the rest are fearless theatre kids, who may not have prior experience but are willing to try anything with enough mats and spotters.”
“We’ve spent lots of our rehearsal time in ‘parking lot cheer camp’, which is where we drag the tumbling mats outside and work on stunts. The low ceilings in our rehearsal space actually don’t allow us to incorporate most of our stunts when we work choreography, which is a challenge – thank goodness for alternate spaces like the parking lot!”
No matter where these talented performers have to practice, they’re going to be ready to showcase the abilities they’ve learned and wow their audience. Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre production of Bring It On! - the Musical tumbles into the Stoner Studio Theatre at the Civic Center, running July 27 through August 5. Tickets are available through DMYAT.org or through the Civic Center website.