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By Amy J. Parrent
Posted: March 27, 2014 at 4:43 p.m.
If you're planning on seeing "Bring It On: The Musical" when it plays Detroit the first weekend of April, you might want to get your tickets quickly. Because one of the leads with ties to the area will be filling a lot of seats all by herself.
"My stepmom has 60 people coming to one of the Fox shows," said Emily Mitchell, who plays Eva, the freshman cheerleader who shakes up the squad, and the entire plot.
The freshly minted (2013) Oakland University graduate is originally from Toledo, but ended up choosing a university closer to her father, who lives in Roseville. "I've been kind of an Ohiogander," Mitchell said. "(For college) I wanted to get away from home, but still be close to both families. And there are amazing performers and faculty at OU, too."
After graduation, she said, "I was deciding where I was going to go next: stay home and save money or go to New York or go to LA to do films. A theater friend was going to New York to audition for a different show. I decided to go too.
"While I was there ‘Bring It On' auditions started," she said. "So many people told me I should look at that show because I was apparently perfect for it. I was going to stay a couple days; it turned into three weeks of auditions.
"I had kind of an adventure," she said. "I was able to navigate the city on my own, explore, gain confidence and experience. I had never been there by myself. I felt empowered."
The musical, based loosely on the series of movies, is a tale of two rival cheerleading squads and their eventual showdown at the big championship.
"My character has quite a bit of a transition throughout the show," said Mitchell. "She begins as young, new freshman, shy and nervous. Campbell (captain of the Truman High team) is my idol. I'm just trying out. I make the squad, and become friends with Campbell."
And then the plot thickens, as first Campbell and the next two cheerleaders in the "line of succession" are eliminated from the squad, leaving Eva to head the Truman team. She eventually faces off with Campbell's new team from Jackson High.
"Eva grows into the captain's role," said Mitchell. "By end of the show she's larger than life and power-hungry."
One of the show's highlights for Mitchell is her Britney Spears-style song explaining "my side of what happened to Campbell."
The show features music by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Tom Kitt, lyrics by Miranda and Amanda Green, and a book by Jeff Whitty. "There's a lot of hip hop," said Mitchell.
"It has the spirit of the campy jokes of the movies," she said. "We have so many different personalities in the show. It's impossible to not find a character you relate to.
"The audience responds to the characters, the humor, great dancing. The cheerleading is awesome."
And what about those high-energy, high-content cheerleading routines?
"At first it was scary, but now fun," said Mitchell. "I'd had zero cheerleading experience, a little gymnastics. And I'm generally athletic.
"Dance (experience) is thing that helped me most," said Mitchell, whose memories of the dance classes at Oakland are among her favorite. "Cheerleading is all about technique, being aware of your body, both for the appeal of the way it looks and for your own safety."
This company has been on a whirlwind tour around the States since January, and will end its run this summer in Japan.
"Japan will be amazing," said Mitchell. "I've never been overseas, across the pond, as they say. I have heard the Japanese love flashy shows with lots of lights and colors."
And how do you follow up an international tour your first year out of college?
"I have no idea just yet," said Mitchell. "I'm kind of considering Disney (World)." And then like a lot of Ohioganders, she adds, "I don't know if I can do another winter up north. So moving south sounds ideal to me."
SHOW DETAILS: "Bring It On: The Musical" comes to the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit, 3 p.m. & 8 p.m. Saturday, April 5 and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 6. Tickets: $30-70. For information: 313-471-6611 or www.olympiaentertainment.com.
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