It’s musical season again at Chillicothe High School, and that means another rousing musical comedy will be taking the CHS/CMS auditorium by storm on the second weekend of May. This year however, the actors, singers, and dancers of CHS have had to trade in their tap-shoes for cheer uniforms as they attempt to do some of the most difficult staging of their young lives to make Bring it On: The Musical the next success of the CHS Theater Department. Bring it On is inspired by the Universal Pictures series of films that focuses on the lives, struggles, and intense training that cheerleaders all over the country have to do on a daily basis. More than that, however, Bring it On is the story of the strong bonds of friendship, of seeing past appearances, and figuring out what winning really means.
“Mala [Kennard] brought Bring it On to me, right before school started back in August,” says Geoff Smith, co-director, “and I remembered not being terribly excited about it when it was suggested. I’d honestly avoided it as a show for a long time because I didn’t feel like it would have any substance. Boy was I wrong.” He goes on to say that the book and music for the show are “spectacular. The kind of show that teaches you important lessons about life while not being too preachy. It was, in a sense, exactly what I loved about Hairspray.” Smith and Kennard had tackled Hairspray in the spring of 2017. The show tells the story of a dedicated cheerleader named Campbell (Emily Schafer) who, upon achieving the coveted role of cheerleading captain at her high school, gets redistricted to a different school right before the start of her senior year. Suddenly all her hopes of captaining her team to a win at Nationals are dashed and she’s thrown into an environment where she is the outsider and the strange one. So, she strives to join the dance crew at the new high school, that is lead by the outspoken and vehemently anti-cheer Danielle (Ariana Moreno). Campbell also begins to suspect that she has been double-crossed by an old team member, Eva (Alexis Lightle), and attempts to turn the dance crew into a cheerleading squad so she can triumph at Nationals and re-establish a status-quo.
Mala Kennard, recently named Ohio Music Educator of the Year and co-director of the production, found that the music for Bring it On presented several challenges. Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, years before he found success with In the Heights and Hamilton, the score features a mixture of pop and hip-hop that can be very challenging for young actors. “The most challenging part of this show musically is the tight three-part harmony (which is the precursor for the harmonies used in "Hamilton") that is performed,” says Kennard. “Men in the show have to sing in a higher Tenor range than in most of our choral music. The rap rhythms are also rather difficult to read -- it's almost better to listen to the track and learn them by ear!”
The difficulty of the music wasn’t the only thing that challenged the cast though. A lot of them had to step outside their comfort zones to find their characters. Savana Goshorn, a senior and four-year theater veteran, was cast in the role of Skylar who is something of a ‘mean girl’ in the story. “The most exciting and difficult part of the show would have to be getting into the character of Skylar, and have an attitude, which is typically unlike me,” says Goshorn. She also adds that, “learning cheer routines [was also difficult] because I've never done anything like that before.” Similarly, newcomer Arianna Fajardo Moreno, who plays tough-talking Danielle, found herself having to be more bold and bossy than usual. “She is the complete opposite of me, and it forces me to take out a side of me that I never really show,” she says, “I have to be loud, confident, smooth and come out as very strong.” However, aside from Seth Truman who played Edna Turnblad in last year’s Hairspray, few students have had to be as bold as Julian Villarreal who plays La Cienega, a transgender member of the Jackson High School dance crew. “My character is the most fabulous by far,” he says, “She is strong independent and very confident.”
Even though there are many types of characters in the show, the one thing that keeps coming through is the importance of friendship. “These characters are all from different backgrounds and have different personalities,” says Smith, “but by the end, they all find that what matters to them isn’t the winning or the trophies they could win. What matters are the friendships they’ve all gained from going through this. It’s a really great message.”
However, in a musical about cheerleaders - you know the choreography has got to be spectacular. Thankfully, Smith and Kennard do not disappoint. Working with Nancy Arledge and the Chillicothe High School State Champion Cheerleading Team, the production team has pulled out the stops to really make the cheer routines shine. Student choreographer Rebekah Corbin, who herself has cheered in the past, helped bring the dance routines to reality by teaching the actors and singers how to do cheer moves and working in the CHS cheerleaders and students with tumbling experience into the routines to really make the numbers pop. “Even if you're not a fan of the Miranda style of music, you will appreciate the work of the CHS State Champion Cheerleading squad,” says Kennard enthusiastically.
So, if you’d like to see the CHS actors, singers, dancers, and cheerleaders at their absolute best, you owe it to yourself to come to Bring it On: The Musical. Bring it On will be performed May 11th and 12th at 7pm in the CHS/CMS auditorium. Tickets are $5.45 for students and senior citizens and $8.45 for adults. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at www.showtix4u.com (search: CHS Bring it On).
The show carries a rating of PG for language and innuendo.