Turbine Theatre, London – until 27 November 2022
Since its opening in 2019, the Turbine Theatre in Battersea has been a leading player in showcasing new musicals, while providing a safe space to try out modern and exciting work. Their most recent is a musical version of the cult classic film But I’m a Cheerleader. Producer, Paul Taylor-Mills has been championing this show for several years and after personally seeing it as a workshop version at MT Fest, it’s great to see how the musical has developed and progressed to its current form.
But I’m a Cheerleader tells the story of a 17-year-old wannabe professional cheerleader whose world is thrown into turmoil when her family and friends suspect she’s a lesbian so send her to a rehab centre. It’s a show which focuses on some real emotional topics, but does so on a way that is witty, enjoyable and oh so current, if at times a little cringe.
There’s certainly heart to the story and the basis is good but a chunk of the show feels shoehorned in and doesn’t really add to the story, At two and a half hours it could definitely be cut down to be more concise and effective. Despite lacking material, the cast are made up of stars who do the absolute best with what they’ve got.
Jessica Aubrey is charming as Megan, giving a really heartwarming performance with killer vocals to match. In the role of the grungy Graham, Megan Hill is humours and engaging, but also shows a softer side at various points in act two, plus their vocals are effortless throughout. Ash Weir is especially entertaining as she multi-roles as a cheerleader and a larger than life Australian campmate; whilst Michael Mather is also hilarious is both his roles and gets a laugh every single time he steps on stage.
Bill Augustin and Andrew Abrams’ score has some strong points and some weak points. There’s a level of character that fits perfectly with the show and some of the songs are great, namely ‘Seeing New Colours’ which is glorious, but on the other hand, much of the music blends into itself and becomes repetitive.
Overall that’s really the theme of the show: some stand out moments amongst a lot of sameness. That being said, there’s certainly a loving group of fans for But I’m A Cheerleader and after some further development it’s sure to improve. For it’s first real run, it’s a pretty solid start with a strong core.