Summer Stage at Bishop Hendricken High School is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and its upcoming production vows to make the occasion unforgettable. “Bring It On: The Musical,” a sky-high tale of unsinkable determination and gymnastic feats, opens tonight, Aug. 1, at the Dr. Daniel H. Harrop Theater. Performances will run on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7 p.m., and on Sunday at 2 p.m.
“Bring It On: The Musical” first hit the stage in 2012, with music composed by Tom Kitt and Lin-Manuel Miranda and lyrics by Amanda Green and Miranda. Adapted from the 2000 film of the same name, Bring It On tells the story of ambitious cheer captain Campbell and her dream of bringing Truman High School’s cheer squad all the way to first place at the national competition. When an unexpected letter from the school board informs Campbell that she’s being redistricted to the neighboring Jackson High School, she decides to roll with the punches and assemble a cheer squad there instead. Campbell, portrayed by Hayley Gasbarro, is tasked with building a new program from the ground up - a narrative that bears a striking resemblance to the story of Summer Stage itself.
“We’re a lot more built up than we were 20 years ago, but we’ve still got that feeling of creating something from nothing,” said Peter Mancuso, a 2015 Hendricken graduate and the director of “Bring It On: The Musical.” Originally starting out as a small-scale project for Hendricken alumni, Summer Stage now features almost 100 students hailing from schools all over Rhode Island and Massachusetts. From tech crew to performers to musicians, the project is given life by the hard work of its members - something that this show wants to really put to the test.
Mancuso, who works alongside Christian Kabbas (Production Manager) and Richard Sylvia (Director of Arts), states that the “Summer Stage spirit” and the sense of community inherent to the program is what consistently draws him and many others back to Hendricken drama.
A choice line from the musical’s closing number, “I Got You,” made him realize that “Bring It On” was a perfect choice for this year’s 20th production: “And in twenty years, it’s not a big old trophy that I’ll miss/But I’ll always smile when I remember this.”
Creating a successful production of Bring It On is certainly no easy task, with intricate cheerleading stunts and flips being omnipresent even as early as the opening number. Through weeks of working with choreographers Danielle Grilli and Teresa Pearson, the cast began to develop from a background of little to no gymnastics or cheerleading experience into a group with the skills to soar above all expectations (and, most importantly, to stick the landing afterwards.)
While initially balking at the premise of a show where getting launched into the air is the norm, eventually the cast became completely devoted to the idea.
“It was out of everyone’s comfort zone. A lot of rehearsals were added,” said Elizabeth Barrett, who plays the role of Eva, Truman High School’s eager-to-please new cheerleader. Despite the sudden change of pace, she noted that soon after the rehearsals began, it was the students themselves pushing for more practice time instead of the directors.
“It’s not just a show, it’s an entire universe,” said Marie Balemian, who will portray Danielle, the head of the Jackson High School hip-hop crew that eventually becomes a powerhouse cheer squad. Both Barrett and Balemian felt that the musical was a good choice for Summer Stage because of its realistic portrayal of high school students and their personal issues, which they hope will give adults in the audience a better view of what they really go through.
“I hope [the audience] realize[s] they’ll come away feeling there’s more here than they thought,” added Jacob Boblitt, a recent Hendricken graduate who serves as assistant stage manager.
In addition to the musical’s focus on teen issues, Summer Stage has partnered with the Mental Health Association of Rhode Island (MHARI) this season to raise awareness for teenage mental health issues. Following the opening night performance on Thursday, audience members are encouraged to attend a talkback regarding mental health, high school experiences, and the musical itself; present at the meeting will be Laurie-Marie Pisciotta, Executive Director of MHARI, Rev. Robert L. Marciano, President of Bishop Hendricken, and Peter Mancuso, the production director.
Each performance of “Bring It On: The Musical” runs for a total of two and a half hours, with a 15-minute intermission. Tickets are $12 for students and seniors and $15 for adults, and can be purchased online at bhhsri.booktix.com/ or by calling the Box Office at 739-3450, ext. 147.
And the cast...
The cast includes: Hayley Gasbarro, Marie Balemian, Jackson Morin, Molly Donovan, Madeline Morin, Alex LeBlanc, Elizabeth Barrett, Lily Brewster, Farah Kinsella, David Santana, Sean Ryan, Brad Hutchison, Eva Silva, Harris Gazder, Jayden Peacock, Matt Steele, Alessandra Iannucci, Lily McMahon, Laura Bacon, Catrina Fielding, Lauren Smith, Joe Rocco, and Ava White. Portraying cheerleaders will be Madison Abood, Laura Bacon, Marissa Birmingham, Addie Brewster, Jayden Peacock, Ashley Scotti, Livia Serak, Mira Tapper, Ava White, and Jake Rademacher. In the hip-hop crew: Willia Burton-Orr, Dominic DaSilva, Luis Felipe de Ugarte, Samantha Hopgood, Alessandra Iannucci, Olivia Lancellotta, Eva Silva, and Rob Smith. Vocal soloists: Dominic DaSilva, Luis Felipe de Ugarte, Emily Fielding, Samantha Hopgood, Victoria Leblanc, and Jake Rademacher. Making up the ensemble: Erin Abatiello, Sean Jacob Alcordo, Nate Allard, Angela Brewster, Darian Clay, Emily Cloutier, Noah Colangelo, Caitlin Connallon, TJ Deneault, Erin Donovan, Joseph Dunn, Thomas Jaques, Ryan McGrath, Helena Medici, Zachary Palermo, Joshua Pama, Emme Serak, Abraham Tardiff, and Kaelin Viera. The creative team behind the production includes Peter Mancuso (’15), Richard Sylvia, Ryan Cox (’14), Teresa Pearson, Danielle Grilli, Carre Devanney, Adam Ramsey, and Christian Kabbas (’14). Making up the tech crew and stage production: Chris Cox, Jacob Boblitt, Aidan Lawrence, Colin Butera, Lyle Jacob Alcordo, Luigi Cubellotti, Aidan Lawton, Matt Saulino, Nick Comito, Alex Pinto, Nick Capalli, John Morales, Owen Tierney, Andrew Cavanagh, Hannah Defeo, Joseph McNulty, Tess der Manouelian, Ashton Allcock, Hannah Bagshaw, Allie Bianco, Abby Dawson, Greta Redleaf, Chris Waldeck, Mekenze Silva, Mary Dohoney, Sabrina Randall, Rosa Steinmetz, David Steets, Aidan McSoley, and Lauren Di Santo. The pit band includes students Chris Relyea, Jonas Kendra, Brooke Newbury, Joe D’Alfonso, and Tyler Cwiek, and professional musicians David Geer and Jeff Cashen.