By Neil Durham
WORTH A LOOK?: ***
WHEN? matinee Sunday 3 April, runs to 8 May 2022
RUNTIME: 160 minutes (including a 20-minute interval)
Conversion therapy is headline news in the UK and there seems no more apt time for this new musical based on a beloved 1999 cult film starring RuPaul and Michelle Williams to be taking its bow.
- Read on for reasons including why the story and talented cast are the best reasons to see this new musical
But I’m A Cheerleader is the tongue-in-cheek story of the titular Megan who has a jock high school boyfriend who she doesn’t enjoy kissing and, after an intervention, is whisked off to the True Directions therapy camp to be converted back to heterosexuality.
Alice Croft as Megan is in fine voice and we share her bewilderment as she orientates herself in a new and hostile environment while slowly falling under the spell of the rebellious Graham, played with an insouciant swagger by Evie Rose Lane.
The camp is run by an evangelical Mary Brown and actress Tiffany Graves has a great deal of comedy fun channelling both a 50s housewife gone rogue crossed with Glee‘s villainous cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester.
There’s a huge amount of promise here and there’s real depth to the cast with Jodie Steele (Heathers, the Other Palace) shining in a variety of roles and making the audience roar with laughter when the quick changes between scenes required her to be on a little earlier than she might have been comfortable with.
We also really enjoyed Jodie Jacobs both as the Mom who only wants what’s best for her daughter and as half of a gay couple who have survived True Directions and want to show the youngsters sent there that there is another option.
The story is the real star of this new musical and if we had 1 criticism it would be that we wished that the score was as memorable and as timely as the book.
The most memorable song for us was probably Wrestling when sporty Dolph played by Aaron Teoh gets a chance to open up about his feelings for a fellow student as well as reflect why True Directions isn’t necessarily working out for him.
Seeing New Colors and Raise Your Flag were also fun and upbeat but we’d suggest a few of the songs could be lost and the show tightened to improve the audience experience of a new musical which is showing great potential.
In a cast that was brimming with so much real talent we also very much enjoyed Damon Gould as camp Andre.
If you have tickets for the show do check with the theatre because illness has affected the cast and at the matinee we saw new recruit Owen McHugh was gamely stepping into the shoes of male lead Edward Chitticks who was unwell.
If you enjoy new musicals based on cult films with a pro-gay twist and a story that could be straight, no pun intended, out of today’s news bulletins, then this might just be something that you’ll really enjoy.