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Musical ‘Bring It On’ explores friendship, acceptance

“Bring It On” is a tale of two high schools, one affluent and the other low-income, and the star cheerleader who’s torn between them. The high-energy musical, which features songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Hamilton”) and Tom Kitt (“Next to Normal”), hits the stage on Thursday as the final production in Spokane Valley Summer Theatre’s debut season.

“It’s a very comedic show,” director Yvonne A.K. Johnson said. “It’s satirical, and there are things that are absolutely hilarious in the show, but it has a real heart to it. … It’s just so catchy. Every day we’re there, no one can stop singing the music. Everyone’s singing the music, and everyone’s excited about it.”

Johnson’s 26-person cast is comprised mainly of high school and college kids, a group she refers to as the “young professional division” of the theater’s acting conservatory.

“Part of our mission has been working with young people, and we’ve done that across the board with all three shows,” Johnson said. “This (show) was chosen so we’d be working with that age group and helping them along with their futures. It’s been a great way to feature a lot of these high school and college-aged kids from all over the area.”

Johnson says her actors have been working tirelessly, as have her choreographers, Ashley Gunn and Ali Wade, and vocal coach Andrea Olsen. She says Miranda and Kitt’s music is difficult enough on its own, but the actors must perform them simultaneously with complicated cheerleading routines and hip-hop dance numbers.

“The strengths of the show are in the choreography,” Johnson said, praising the work of Gunn and Wade. “Some of these young people have been cheerleaders, and some of them have just done a lot of gymnastics and dance. They’re using all forms of dance. Every dance style imaginable is in this, plus all of the stunting and the cheering.”

“Bring It On” is based loosely on the 2000 feature film, a cult comedy that starred Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union and inspired a number of direct-to-DVD sequels. The musical focuses on Campbell Davis (Amber Fiedler), a cheerleading captain at the affluent Truman High School, who finds herself transferred to the less-well-off Jackson High. Upon discovering that the school doesn’t have a cheerleading squad, Campbell attempts to create one using the skeptical members of Jackson’s hip-hop dance team.

“In the end, what really matters is friendship and acceptance of different people,” Johnson said. “What it really comes down to is what does it mean to sacrifice? What does it mean to be a true friend, and what choices do you make in life that are supporting and loving choices?”

Johnson says those themes of camaraderie and friendship have rubbed off on the cast, which she says has bonded as a group.

“Even if somebody is 14 and the other person is 21, they still have a common goal and a common interest in this show,” Johnson said. “When you go through something like this, where you’re together all day every day, it’s always a wonderful test in growing together. I think these will be friendships that they’ll forge for a lifetime.”

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