In “Bring It On: The Musical,” Azaria Bermudez has only one line (it’s “You suck”) but you’ll certainly remember her. She spends a lot of the show flipping around way, way over the other actors’ heads.
The 4-foot-9 Bermudez is a “flyer” in the cheer-saturated show inspired by the 2000 film.
While most musicals feature people who are very experienced in, you know, musical theater, “Bring It On” has a few members who were brought on specifically for their cheer experience. Bermudez is one; the show’s cheer captain, Antwan Bethea, is another. Bethea is the understudy for two roles, and a “swing” for four others (an understudy covers speaking roles; a swing, ensemble roles). “Any given night I could be going on for any of those,” Bethea says.
His duties as cheer captain, though offstage, may be his most important. “It’s my responsibility to make sure everything is right and safe,” Bethea says. “A lot of the stunts are college-level cheer stunts. That is the most difficult level you can do.” (Bethea cheered for East Carolina University as well as for the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats; Bermudez cheered for the University of Hawaii.)
While cheer is at the center of “Bring It On,” it’s not the same old routine for the show’s college- and pro-level experts.
“When you’re preparing for a cheer competition you practice twice, maybe three times a week, and you compete your routine two or three times a year,” Bethea says. “We do this [show] eight times a week. The level of conditioning and mental stamina we have to have to do this exact same routine every night and make sure we really, really sell that moment is crazy.”
Both Bethea and Bermudez cite one moment of the flip-filled show as their favorite. “We have some pretty large guys doing the tosses, and in this one [move] there are four people under [Bermudez] and we toss her as high as we can,” Bethea says. Bermudez agrees: “You can feel the energy from the crowd. Most people are surprised because, ‘Oh, she just flipped a million times in the air!’”
In “Bring It On: The Musical,” Campbell (Nadia Vynnytsky) is the cheer captain and queen bee at Truman High, but redistricting sends her to the more diverse, less well-off Jackson High. To win a cheer championship, Campbell has to convince Danielle (Zuri Washington), the captain of Jackson’s dance troupe, to switch to cheerleading so the school can bring home the trophy.
Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m., $25-$81; 301-581-5100. (Grosvenor-Strathmore)