One might think that a simple comedic plot about a cheerleading rivalry would equal a simple musical production.
Not so for the musical, “Bring it On,” which involves not only young actors but two cheerleading teams from opposite sides of the state line.
The lead character is a high school cheerleader forced to move to a new school and cheerleading team in an entirely different culture because of redistricting. Her former team and her new team are set to compete at a national contest.
“Bring it On,” presented by Music Theatre Kansas City, is based on the popular movie and Broadway show of the same title.
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The rivals are played by two real-life, local, national award-winning cheerleading squads: the Lee’s Summit-based Nash Jem Obsession and KC Cheer-Fierce Five, which draws students from the Kansas side of the state line.
The cheerleaders will put some flying thrills into musical numbers led by 40 MTKC musical actors with high-caliber, stage-tested abilities but no cheerleading skills. The athletes, by contrast, may have sung only in a church choir.
Aside from some “deer-in-the-headlights” moments, all three groups were doing well together right off the bat. They’ll have only a week’s worth of rehearsals before opening night on Friday.
“It’s so new for everybody,” music director Julie Danielson said during the first rehearsal while performers sang “Killer Instinct” in the background.
“That’s what’s so great. Everyone’s getting to try new things. It’s really a unique collaboration. You typically only see these kinds of cheerleading stunts on TV, but here you get to see them live in the air. There’s an energy about that risk that’s exciting.”
Music Theatre Kansas City is a professional program that offers both musical theater performances to the community and preparatory training in the art to area young people. Danielson is MTKC’s artistic director.
Zahria Whiting, a Raytown High School junior who belongs to the Lee’s Summit gym, said the tumbling and flying stunts that may wow the crowd are not as scary as they may appear.
“When you’re doing it, you just don’t think about it, and you just go,” she said.
Larkin Reilly, a sophomore at St. James Academy in Lenexa, has multiple MTKC musicals under her belt. She plays Eva, a cheerleader who starts out sweet but becomes the villain of the show in her quest to be top cheerleader.
“This show is so difficult for us to put on,” she said, “so we’re all just in it together. We’re learning a lot from each other.”
The production is “difficult,” but it’s also “new and fresh” and “crazy awesome,” she said.
Nash Jem Elite co-owner Jamishia Miller said the 10-member “Obsession” team is culled from the program’s 45 cheerleaders. These few can launch into a “standing tuck” (basically a no-hands back-flip), and a back-handspring-into-layout that would take three (also gymnastic) metaphors and a diagram to describe.
Joining forces with the theater group and another team is exciting, she said. “It’s totally new, and they’re totally excited and ready to rock-and-roll.”
“Bring it On”
Performances are scheduled for Jan. 2-4 at the White Recital Hall, 4949 Cherry St. at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Show times are at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 2-3, plus a 2:30 p.m. matinee on Jan. 4.
Advance tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students, but prices rise the day of the performance to $20 for adults and $12 for students. Buy tickets online at mtkc.org or by calling the central ticket office at 816-235-6222.