But I’m A Cheerleader

Whilst productions do as much as they can to immerse audiences in the aesthetic of shows from the start, nothing can compare to the auditory and visual sensation of pastel that kick off But I’m a Cheerleader.

leaves us with a restlessness that comes from wanting to make a change in our own lives

Life is not all pink picket fences for 17 year old Megan (Jessica Aubrey) in Bill Augustin and Andrew Abrams’ adaptation of this cult classic, who is lifted out of her perfect life and shipped off to the rehabilitation center True Directions by her parents. There she meets Graham (Megan Hill), who shows Megan how to find acceptance with who she is and that life is more colourful than pink and blue.

Directed by Tania Azevedo, this musical is a light-hearted celebration of LGBTQ+ spaces and identity, whilst drawing attention to perpetuating erasure and vilification of the LGBTQ+ community by conservatives. Azevedo’s direction subtly brings attention to the political context and harsh realities of the rehabilitation center without overshadowing and dampening the coming of age story that is taking place before us. Her use of 4th wall breaks and the technical side of the production - in particular the quick costume changes as cast members switch characters - adds a tongue in cheek mocking undercurrent to the action. Augustin and Abrahms’ decision to use cheer chants to bookend scenes is a creative and hilarious way to signpost action but also adds to the development of our perception of the characters. The pair manage to balance sarcasm and genuineness in the libretto, creating amusing moments in the intensity of some songs like Step 2: Pink and Blue and Perfect Little World which contrast to the earnestness and triumphant Seeing New Colors.

David Shields’ set and costume design mockingly emphasizes the binary that is imposed in the show and reality, to the point of over-exaggeration and ridicule. Seeing this musical more than 20 years on, the 90s aesthetic of But I’m a Cheerleader could be considered foreign and outdated to a lot of us, and Shields takes this a step further in his pink and blue uniformity that is almost 1950s-esque in the brightness and constraint that the uniforms imply, only to be undermined by details of individualism as the musical progresses. The almost candy-cane like palette for True Directions is a sickeningly sweet and innocent backdrop to the action, something that we immediately distrust - as we should - and it is astonishing how much of a visceral reaction Shields’ design produces.

There is a playfulness to the show that the cast executes with a wink and a nudge to us, as if the characters themselves are in on the joke. It’s a great adaptation in that there is a cheesiness to it, but at no point do the tropes appear in any way overused or tired. The little ways that the cast manage to fit in character quirks into their movement and changes between characters makes it all seem ridiculous but in a completely grave manner. As Megan, Aubrey keeps a Sandra Dee-like sweetness and innocence throughout, only to surpass expectations and wow us over with the sheer power of her voice. To see her character progression as she incrementally shows more confidence in her performance, changing her vocal styles to suit this development. The hope and self-fulfillment in Seeing New Colors gives us an incredible rush, which is surpassed by her performance of Graham’s Kiss, that is jaw-dropping in of itself. Hill also plays on our assumptions in their interpretation of Graham. Their general aloofness and rebellious attitude is intriguing, but it’s not until their performance of If That’s What it Takes do we really see the depth and complexity of their character. Hill has a stunning alto register that breathes real emotion into every note and word that they perform, to the point where we just learn so much about the character. It is breath-taking to see Aubrey and Hill perform and to witness the range of their talent.

But I’m a Cheerleader is inspirational, and leaves us with a restlessness that comes from wanting to make a change in our own lives. This musical possesses a lot of joy despite the reality of the issues that it explores. Like its characters, But I'm a Cheerleader breaks all boundaries, both imagined and not. Completely unmissable, hopefully this is the beginning But I’m a Cheerleader’s journey to becoming a musical classic.

Reviews by Katerina Partolina Schwartz

King's Head Theatre Pub

And Then the Rodeo Burned Down

★★★★
Piccadilly Theatre

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

★★★★★
Charing Cross Theatre

George Takei's Allegiance

★★★★★
Soho Theatre

Erika Ehler: Femcel

★★★★
Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre

Newsies

★★★★★
Soho Theatre

Lauren Pattison: It Is What It Is

★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Megan is an all-American high school cheerleader who has the perfect life, until she finds out her friends and family suspect her of being a lesbian and send her packing to ‘True Directions,’ a rehabilitation camp to set her straight, where, under the strict tutelage of headmistress Mary Brown Megan meets Graham, a sexy tomboy who shows her exactly what her ‘true direction’ is. Hilarious, irreverent and full of heart: a quirky coming-of-age comedy about sexual awakening and self-realization.

Most Popular See More

SIX

From £21.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Matilda the Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Lion King

From £42.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Frozen the Musical

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Wicked

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets