SELMA – If you plan on attending the Selma Arts Center’s latest production, “Bring It On – The Musical,” you might expect to see athletic cheer routines, sassy characters and a bit of catty drama in the show. According to director and choreographer Michael Christopher Flores, you won’t be disappointed.
“People are expecting the stunts and the jokes, but they’re also going to get a story that’s really relevant to today and stuff this generation will relate to,” Flores said.
So along with fast-paced dance and cheer numbers, you’ll also see a show that delivers a message about friendship, forgiveness and self-confidence.
“I love how contemporary this musical is and that it’s about current situations and what kids go through now.”
Flores said “Bring It On” addresses issues such as friendships, competition and even weightier matters of race relations in such a way that he hopes gets audience members thinking.
“It’s about what our generation is going through in terms of what it feels like to look into another person’s perspective and circumstance. When Campbell goes to this new school and is figuring out all this stuff and how this school works, it’s a completely different environment for her. It’s a culture shock. She thinks she has it bad, but somebody else might have it worse. At Jackson, they don’t even have a cheer program at their school.”
“Bring It On” is based loosely on the 2000 film and series of film spin-offs about cheer teams’ preparation for and participation in cheerleading competitions. Seems simple, right? In the story, lead cheerleader Campbell is hoping to be named captain of her squad at Truman High as she enters her senior year. However, after redistricting changes her school of attendance to inner-city Jackson High, her dreams of winning a national competition are dashed. Or are they? Jackson High may not have a cheer squad, but it does boast its own unofficial dance crew of the Queen Bees: Nautica, La Cienega and Danielle.
Selma High’s 2017 graduate Nia Luchau plays the character of Nautica and says while she may have been part of the cheer squad at Selma High “Bring It On” has required much more than just cheer skills.
To create a realistic cheer competition for the musical, the actors attended cheer camp for two weeks and worked out to get more toned, Luchau said.
“We learned stunts; we learned jumps and worked out every day. It’s been different than anything I’ve ever experienced. I did cheer in high school, but for a musical I’ve never had to work out. It’s been really rewarding because if came to rehearsal and had to learn all these stunts, we’d be so behind.”
Luchau said she can empathize with the lead character’s dilemma as she used to move often when she was younger and knows what it’s like to be the new girl at school.
“[The students at a new school] judge you for a second, then they get to know you and you’re their friend.”
Nautica is best friends with Danielle and La Cienega and they’re the school’s unofficial dance crew.
Fresno’s Jimmy Haynie has the role of La Cienega, a transgender female that Haynie said is part of the storyline of inclusion in the musical.
“There’s definitely a process,” he said of getting into character. “I definitely transform. It’s not being a transgender that’s part of the storyline, but that they think of him as one of the girls and I think that’s important. It’s acceptance.”
Haynie said like most of the performers in the musical, he has dance and singing experience, but combining them with cheer has been a challenge for all the actors.
“When you’re in a musical and when you’re in a cheer team, it’s just two different mindsets and we have to combine them. It was hard for the people who didn’t have cheer, dance or musical experience but we’re getting through it. I was excited about [being in ‘Bring It On’] but I’ve never had to dance so hard while singing.”
Haynie said audience members will enjoy the drama between the characters and predicts they’ll appreciate the underlying theme as well.
“The message of the show is not everything is necessarily about winning but about how hard you work for it because it’s going to be the memories and if you’re enjoying the process that will last forever.”
Meanwhile, Buchanan High senior Kenzie Stafford has the role of Campbell, the transfer student who in the end realizes friendships are more important, and lasting, than competitions.
“The message that speaks to me is ‘be who you are, no matter what.’ If you’re comfortable in your own skin, then be who you are. Don’t think about anybody else’s thinking because what matters is you and what you care about.”
Stafford said she, too, has dance and cheer experience, however “Bring It On” has been a challenge.
“I’ve never had to sing and dance and be thrown up in the air and tumble. It was the music that made me want to do this,” she said of the musical. “I didn’t realize what I was signing myself up for though since it’s been a wild ride. I wouldn’t change it for the world. If Selma, Fresno, Clovis and Fowler comes and sees our show, they will not expect what they’re about to see. This is theater taken to a different level.”