NODA Review - Bring It On
Society: Centre Stage
Production: “Bring it On”
Date: 29th October 2019
Venue: Bridewell Theatre
Report by: Simon Jones & Carly Hilts
It’s always interesting to see how a society will handle a show that has a large amount of physical movement at its core. Will they split the cast into those who can and those who can’t and never the twain shall meet, which lends itself to a somewhat lop-sided production where you can easily see the join and it all feels a little “us and them”? Or will they manage to put on a show with energy across the piece where everyone plays an integral part with so much vigour, verve, and enthusiasm?...Once again, it’s no surprise that with Centre Stage, it’s the latter…and in spades! What we love about your productions is not just the talent that overflows from your society, but the fact that everyone is really, really loving what they are doing and throws themselves into everything completely, be it the emotional heart-wrenching moments or the high-octane acrobatic dance numbers – it’s all there!
Katy Partington (Campbell): A lovely performance from Katy who brought all the nervous quirkiness to bear on her portrayal of the striving and sometimes awkward Campbell. A great voice and exceptional acting throughout, a real pleasure to watch – you had the audience rooting for you throughout. Crucially, you never overplayed the need for sympathy or made it pathetic, instead instilling a firm sense of belief in your character from the audience. Well done. Geneva Ferrer (Danielle): Trouble with a capital “T”, and a brilliant counterpart to puncture Campbell’s bubble as leader of the Jackson crew - the fall-out with Campbell on the realisation of her lies was very well done and emotionally charged but was also delivered in such a way that you managed to portray the hard outer shell of Danielle but also the softer, human side which left us wanting her and Campbell to resolve their differences. An excellent voice that blended well, but the dialogue at times found itself to be a little rushed and sometimes too quiet – just something to consider as you really brought out a lot in the character and we didn’t want to miss any of it!
Inti Conde (Randall): Another amazing voice here, and Inti gave us a really gentle and compassionate Randall which again, reinforced the audience buy-in for the slowly forming relationship between him and Campbell to be a success (the handing over of the adapted trophy was lovely). It was nice to see Inti get to get his acting boots on and again he didn’t disappoint. It was great to hear you blending vocally throughout - you have such a good and powerful voice and it’s nice to watch and hear someone who is complete control of their talent. Katie Brier (Bridget): An absolutely perfect character portrait here of Bridget – I have nothing but praise for you here – from your hilarious comic timing, facial expressions and blossoming flirting with Twig, through to your splendid voice and dialogue delivery – a complete package. Again, you kept just to the correct side of “quirky” and didn’t make Bridget out and out “odd”…rather just mis-aligned to her surroundings! I could have watched you all day, a stand-out performance. Kirsty Rome (Skylar): Every “good girl” needs a “complete bitch” foil – and Kirsty was the out and out Queen of the “In” crowd and Princess Syndrome “dialled up to 11”! Excellent believable character work, and a powerful but appropriate voice was brought out beautifully in “Try-Outs” and through all your ensemble pieces - you must have been physically exhausted just managing to hold yourself in the various “poses” you adopted throughout, as if caught in a permanent Instagram picture! Heather Barnish (Eva): A “tour de force of crazy” is what, towards the end of the show, I wrote in my notes and I can’t think of a better way of putting it! Amazing work by Heather in carefully managing the progression of the initially timid Eva into a psychopathic, self-obsessed control freak – but oh what fun to watch. We particularly liked the scene where you usurped Campbell from Steven, taking on their “song”. A brilliant delivery of “Killer Instinct” too – and hats off for the backward “Exorcist-style” crab that you somehow managed to pull off and then return from with amazing control – the crazy icing on a delightfully unhinged cake. Brilliant! Jordan French (La Cienega): Jordan gave us an astoundingly outrageous, sassy and totally delicious portrayal of La Cienega. Your dancing and movement was top-notch with such flexibility, and all that in heels! (You dance better, and in higher heels, than Carly can walk in, she wants to add!) Impressive vocals too in “Aint no Thing”. You made La Cienega a believable character, not played for laughs or as a caricature – very well delivered, and your double act with Nautica was lovely to watch – the friendship between the characters was really warming in their asides to each other and dialogue together. Virginia Di Valo (Nautica): Nautica makes up the final member of the Jackson “Crew”. Virginia complemented the hard-edged Danielle and the sassy La Cienega with her own brand of Jackson misfit, again never venturing into the realm of stereotype, but staying in that “just too cool for school” zone which made the three of them work so well together; so different, yet with a common thread. Excellent dialogue and interactions with the other characters with buckets of attitude and even more sass! As above – a lovely chemistry played out with La Cienega. Benjamin Eva (Steven): This was a solid and well acted performance, especially when delivering the sickeningly sweet “Happy Kitties” with Campbell – just that little bit too much “sugar” that’s needed in this! Hannah McKenna-Vickerstaff (Kylar): A funny and well-developed character, Hannah showed great comic timing in her three-way phone calls with Skylar and Campbell, and created a well-individualised persona that set her apart from Skylar, Campbell, and Eva while still feeling very much part of the squad – nicely done. Will Hunkin (Twig): Will’s “Twig” provided some excellent moments of comic relief and his “courting” of Bridget was really entertaining – especially when he had to justify his desire to his male pals. Great accomplished character-driven vocals and comic timing throughout. Kob Yeboah (Cameron): an entertaining and well-rounded performance here from Kob, whose initial distant and disinterested appearance gave way to his character developing into one of the key players – with strong vocal interjections and buckets of personality.
Behind every excellent principal cast, there has to be an equally talented ensemble of supporting actors. For a show to be truly excellent, there need be no demarcation between principals and ensemble. You nailed it here and every one of you should be massively proud. There was absolutely no let-up in energy and talent that you brought to the stage here. From the coordinated ensemble dance numbers and “cheer” structures and jumps to the “wall of sound” chorus singing – you behaved like one cohesive group with no one person drawing the eye or ear – it was an excellent spectacle! Special mention to your two dance captains Hilary Zondlak and Aimee Bevan who excelled themselves to ensure that you were all drilled to perfection. Director Jon Haines should be very, very pleased with what he has created here, and the breadth and depth of the talents of his multiskilled cast. His creative team has really pulled together here across a lot of different disciplines to give a seamless production. Clearly there had been a lot of rehearsals to synch with the digital screens used through the show – this added to the high energy and pace of the show which never lagged for a second – these were a nice touch which we loved. Set A good, flexible and dynamic set showing some imaginative thinking about transition through the story from schools, to bedrooms, to arena spaces – again, all with one eye on the need to bring in dance mats for the more adventurous cheer sequences, and the ability to quickly clear the space to accommodate the ambitious dance numbers. Good integration of digital screens, allowing for humorous interjections and extra exposition without cluttering the stage. Choreographer & Cheer Consultant For a show like “Bring it On”, you can’t approach it half-heartedly at all – the show lives and dies on its dance routines and the coordination of the cast. Emily Bowers was all over the task at hand and had devised some splendid ensemble numbers such as “Bring it On”, “I Got You”, and “Friday Night Jackson”, but it’s not just about the big punchy numbers as everything flowed beautifully with the smaller group movement being just as attractive. Input from Jacob Haynes as “Cheer Consultant” will have aided the integration of the cheer sequences which were particularly well done, and it’s always good to see almost fearless cast being hoisted and launched around – which again shows the huge amount of work and commitment that you’ve all put into this excellent show. Musical Directors & Band Alan Taemur and Hayden Taylor sailed a tight ship here. The vocal work of the cast and chorus was well rehearsed and they blended together really well, with some powerful voices in the cast. The band delivered an excellent and accurate support which was balanced well with the vocalists. Sound Design The design and operation was handled ably by Adam Lockett – managing this number of radio mics in this space where there is nowhere to hide and very little “run on” is difficult. The balance of the mics against the band was good throughout – however there were a few moments when the exigencies of the venue went against you and we lost the start of some dialogue/vocal lines – however there were only a few of these issues and it didn’t mar our enjoyment of the show. Lighting The Bridewell is a difficult space to light, especially if you use the full depth of the stage which was well utilised here – but designer James Orr met the challenge brilliantly. The lighting plot/design was never intrusive or out of place, and really supported and accentuated the action on stage – and of course, every good plan needs excellent execution and Benjamin Gill drove the show wonderfully. Wardrobe Geri Hutyan coordinated a contiguous and thorough wardrobe here – the costumes were beautifully detailed and entirely appropriate to the different factions in the show. The Truman cheerleader and jock costumes were particularly sharp and exactly right, which contrasted with the Jackson crew’s more “street” costumes. Stage Managers This role is sometimes under-recognised, yet arguably these were the two people without whom the show – especially one that needs scene changes and dance mats being brought on and off quickly – would be a car crash. Shiri Stern and Andrew Laidlaw ensured that everything was kept on track and the high energy flow of the show wasn’t disturbed by overly long scene changes – great work, team. Programme I only wish that other societies would follow adopt and use this programme format – it’s clear and concise, yet contains exactly the right amount of information about the society and the various member of the production team. The most important part, though, is that it has decent photographs of the cast which is immensely helpful when we come to write your report (a nice touch with the signatures across the pics too, giving it a yearbook feel that was entirely appropriate for the subject of the show!). We loved the dynamic rehearsal shots too – a great reflection of the energy of the production. You might like to consider entering it for the Programme and Poster competition, details of which can be found on the NODA website, www.noda.org.uk. Front of house As ever, your front of house team and box office were exemplary and very welcoming to us on this chilly evening. Thanks for having us, we look forward to seeing you again soon!
Simon Jones & Carly Hilts
Regional Representatives NODA London District 1