‘But I’m a Cheerleader’ has made its return to the Turbine Theatre, for the second time this year after making its debut as a fully staged production, first being presented at the MTFestUK back in 2019. The audience is told the story of high-school cheerleader Megan with her ‘perfect life’, who suddenly gets shipped off to ‘True Directions’ to start her conversion therapy after her friends and family fear that she is queer. As shocking as this sounds, Bill Augustin and Andrew Abrams musical, based on the 1999 Lionsgate movie, is in fact a somewhat light-hearted show full of happy endings. 


The stage is set rather simply at the start of the show, although with brilliant use of projection to enhance the set and utilise the rather small performance area. Once the story leaves the high-school setting, the staging feels much more fitting with beautiful scenery of True Directions, with electric lighting states, and grand pink doors welcoming you to the home of ‘Pink and Blue’. The most magnificent part of arriving at this section of the story was the introduction of Mary and Mike, played by Georgina Hagen and Noel Sullivan, whose flawless and vibrant vocals bring the polish needed of this dream-like (or rather 

nightmare-like) home for ‘lost souls’. Their eccentric performances bring beautiful energy and hilarious chemistry to every scene in which they are present. 


Due to being a company-member down, Josie Kemp, usually in the role of Super Cheerleader, took on the leading role of Megan and does not disappoint. Her performance of ‘Graham’s Kiss’ beautifully captures the moment when a young person experiences their first love. Meghan Hill, who played the ‘resident rebel’ Graham, started their professional debut with a bang. Their unique tone wows the audience and brings a strong and confident performance to the stage. Their natural chemistry with Kemp felt raw and authentic, allowing audience members to relate their own memories of teenage love to the story being told. Inez Budd also stood out for her sharp dance moves, eye-catching performance, and the perfect portrayal of the fellow ‘True Directions’ grungy resident, Sinead. 


Although a story discussing conversion therapy, abonnement for being queer, and themes of identity, the show feels light and joyful. Sometimes, the simple happy endings are what we need to see more of when presenting queer stories on stage, celebrating the pride within the LGBTQIA+ community. But I’m a Cheerleader portrays this perfectly. At times, the numbers within the show feel a little too big for the stage at the Turbine. Although this isn’t so much an issue – it simply illustrates the need for the show to be transferred to a larger stage, with the ability to be seen by more than its 90-seat capacity. 


For a colourful, queer, classic American teenage love story, with hilarious musical numbers, as well as heart-wrenching ballads, this show is for you. It made its return for a reason. 


It runs at the Turbine Theatre until the 27th of November. 


Review: Anna Hulm      Photo: Mark Senior