BR native Bailey Purvis lands key musical spot

Bailey Purvis made the prediction in 2012.

“‘Bring It On’ had opened on Broadway, and we flew to New York to see it,” she says. “And I remember turning to my mom and saying, ‘I’m going to play that part one day.’”

She was talking about the role of Skylar, the overconfident, sassy best friend to main character Campbell, whose mission is to turn a dance team into a competitive cheerleading squad.

“Bring It On: The Musical” is based on the 2000 movie starring Kirsten Dunst, but the plot is different. So, if you’ve seen the movie, you don’t know what happens in the musical. But you’ll have a chance to see it when Jam Theatricals brings the musical to the Baton Rouge River Center Theatre for the Performing Arts as part of its Broadway in Baton Rouge series.

And Purvis, true to her prediction, is playing Skylar.

The Baton Rouge native is in New Haven, Conn., where the traveling show’s previews are under way. Baton Rouge is an early stop on the tour, which already is stirring Purvis’ emotions.

“The River Center Theatre stage was the first stage I performed on,” Purvis says. “I was 2 years old, and I performed in a dance recital. So now I’m going back to that stage, and I know it’s going to be very emotional.”

Though many Baton Rouge theatergoers missed that early performance, they may have since seen Purvis on many other Baton Rouge stages. She played Evangeline in Playmakers of Baton Rouge’s 2009 production of “Evangeline the Musical,” and took on the role of Elle Woods in Center Stage Performing Arts Academy’s production of the musical “Legally Blonde.”

And in 2013, Purvis was a featured performer in the Ascension Veterans Association’s musical salute to the troops at the Gonzales Civic Center.

Now she’s bypassing her final semester at the Boston Conservatory to play Skylar.

“When I learned about auditions for this show, I knew I had to try out,” Purvis says. “My school is very supportive of my decision and this show. This is the reason I’m going to school there.”

Purvis scheduled an appointment with the casting director, then hopped a train from Boston to New York.

“By the time I was on back on the train for Boston, they were calling me for a callback audition,” she says. “I went back to school, threw some clothes in a bag, got a couple of hours sleep and went back to New York the next day. This went on for a week.”

Now she’s Skylar, the girl who shows up ready to cheer in high heels. It’s just part of the fun in this musical, which premiered in 2012 at Broadway’s St. James Theatre. It has quite the pedigree, featuring an original story by Tony Award winner Jeff Whitty, music and lyrics by Tony Award-winning composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, music by Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning composer Tom Kitt, lyrics by Broadway lyricist Amanda Green and music supervision by Tony and Grammy Award winner Alex Lacamoire.

The production is directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Andy Blankenbuehler.

The story opens when, on the final day of her high school junior year, Campbell Davis is named captain of the cheerleaders. But, two weeks before summer ends, she receives a letter saying her school district has changed, and she’ll be attending inner-city Jackson High School.

Campbell finds Jackson’s resident dance crew is good, but it’s not a cheerleading squad. She sets out to remedy that.

For Purvis, the role means getting her own taste of cheerleading.

“I’m working with the original director and choreographer from the Broadway production,” she says. “So, this is a unique opportunity for all of us. And there is a cheerleading squad in this show made up of cheerleaders. They’ve never done musical theater.”

Cheerleaders and performers are learning from each other. “I only have one stunt in the play, and it’s nothing like the things the cheerleaders do,” Purvis says. “Some of the things they do will take the audience’s breath away.”