PJ Players ready to show deeper meaning behind 'Bring it On'

By ANTHONY SPAULDING
Director of Communications
Pope John XXIII Regional High School
anthonyspaulding@popejohn.org

SPARTA — Almost 18 years ago, the movie “Bring It On” hit theaters, giving people an inside look at the world of competitive cheerleading.

The movie has had so much popularity over the years, especially with high-school aged students, that there have been three more films as well as a Broadway hit, called “Bring It On: The Musical.”

Despite the popularity, it still has also been stereotyped over the years as just a show about cheerleading with no real meaningful messages.

However, the Pope John Players are looking to show people that there is meaning when they present, “Bring It On: The Musical” tonight at 7, Friday at 8 p.m., and Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m., at Pope John XXIII Regional High School. The show is open to the public and tickets cost $10 per person. Area senior citizens are admitted free of charge.

“When people think of this, they think of the movie and it is going to be about cheerleading, but it is really not,” Pope John junior Hayley Gagnon said. “It’s about racial issues, it’s about social classes, it’s about people from different worlds coming together and showing they are the same deep down.”

“Whenever people hear about ‘Bring It On: The Musical,’ they just think it is a cheerleading show,” Pope John junior Chase Nugnes said. “But, when you watch the show, it is totally different. It has all this hip-hop, rap music, great dancing and great character backstories. It’s a great show and we are excited to put it on.”

Though the show is loosely based on the film, the Pope John Players are putting on a musical that was originally composed by Lin Manuel Miranda, a social justice champion now famous for creating Broadway's "Hamilton.”

Miranda’s musical focuses on economic privilege, bullying and social acceptance when the white cheer captain from Truman High School, Campbell is betrayed by a conniving sophomore Eva and her Board of Ed mother, and she is redistricted with an unpopular girl to an economically disadvantaged school called Jackson High. Campbell, played by Pope John junior Katie Yarussi, and the unpopular girl must learn about acceptance and confidence as they make new friendships with a group of students that are talented dancers — headed by Gagnon’s character Danielle — and define what they value in others.

The Players were excited to perform “Bring It On” because the musical gave them a chance to step out of their comfort zone from what they were accustomed to performing after recently presenting shows such as “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Jesus Christ Superstar”, “Sweeney Todd”, and “Othello.”

“It’s a change,” Yarussi said. “I love the young feel that Miranda brings to this musical and it was well-needed for our program. We’ve done so many challenging dramas and darker shows.”

“We’ve gone from shows that focus on the darker side of humanity to a show that says that we are all human, and that is a good thing,” added Pope John senior Margaret Butler, who plays La Cienega from Jackson High.

This production is not only far different from what they are used to presenting, but it is one that is timely, according to Pope John Players director Jacquelyn Burt.

"It is the perfect show for us as a high school right now because we are recognizing and prioritizing this national crisis and challenging our own students to always stand against bullying in all facets of their life,” Burt said. “We are engaging students in discussions about the appropriate use of social media and furthering acceptance of all individuals.”

While they love the change of pace of this musical, the Players admitted that it has taken a ton of time and effort to master all the parts in this show from the cheers and dance routines to the character backstories, some of which are polar opposites to the students playing those roles.

“This is a very challenging show with all of the choreography and singing,” said Pope John senior Chen Chen, who plays Twig from Jackson High. “It’s been a lot of work.”

“I have the meanest character,” Pope John senior Adriana Purcell said of her role as Eva. “But, it’s great to experience her situation and see her change into a nice person as the show goes on.”

However, these Players believe they are better for doing a show like this and can’t wait to “bring it” to the public.

“People just think this happens overnight, but it doesn’t,” said Pope John senior Chris Quaranta, who plays a character from Jackson High. “You probably put in 100 to 120 hours in the music room preparing for it and 40-50 more hours rehearsing it during the week of the show. At the end of the day, it is just fun to get up there and actually perform on our field so to speak.”

“We’re so pumped up for it,” Gagnon said. “It’s just awesome and we want others to see how great this show is.”

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