Pring it on!

Mangere Arts Centre, Auckland

31/01/2024 - 03/02/2024

Production Details

Playwright: Leki Bourke-Jackson
CoDirector: Saale Ilaua & Leki Bourke-Jackson
Show Choreography: Leki Bourke-Jackson, Natalie Toevai, Juliana Lologa-Sopoaga, Saale Ilaua
Musical Director: Juliana Lologa-Sopoaga

Strictly Brown Ltd.

Pring It On is a delicious dra-medy set in a fictitious, flamboyant, fobbylicious high school – SOUTH AUCKLAND GRAMMAR SCHOOL. Pring It On follows the story of Penina Toleafoa, a NZ-Born Samoan in her last year of school who auditions for the Samoan Cultural Group. When the going gets tough, Penina challenges the status quo and takes on the head leader, Becky with the good hair in a full blown battle of the taupous. Penina must learn to find her true authentic self, make peace with her hypocritical traditionalist mother and navigate the nuances of teenage love – all whilst dealing with a heap of haters in the mix. Get your taro chips ready, cause this is one Coco-Concoction you do not want to miss!
Pring it on will be premiering at Mangere Arts Centre from the 31st January – 3rd February 7:30pm-8:40pm.

Here is the link for ticketing information via Eventfinda:

Adyhana Urika Filifilia as Penina
Joanna Mika-Toloa as Tiesi
Natalie Toevai as Becky
Demitrius Schuster-Koloamatangi as Naisa
Petmal Petelo as Pauly
Joyce Salu as Sosafina

Atina Lipa Patau
Lesina Malaesilia
Khloe Malaesilia
Jazmin Ugapo
Vanessa Ugapo
Grace Collins
Abigail Leulua’i Alo
Virginia Moresi
Charlene Stowers
Siana Vagana
Hannah Mika-Toloa
Tavai Puni
Keneti Vai
Azael Uini-Faiva
Barry Samiu
Missy Pelu
Anric Sitanilei
Mikey Falesiu
Liani Asiata

James Leavasa
Lafo Fagamalo
Nathan Peseta
Pene Ueta
Walter Sipili

Stage Manager: Seluvaia Iloahefaiva
LX designer: Daya Sao-Mafiti
Tech Crew: Max Koenig & Jase Manumu’a
Cultural Advisor: Nafanuatele Mafaufau
Acting Coach: Anapela Polataivao
Intimacy Coach: Bianca Seinafo
Poster design and Photography: Southsides (Geoff)
Dramaturg: Victor Rodger ONZM
Publicist: Michelle Lafferty

Theatre ,

Approximately 70mins

Beautiful singing, stunning choreography, amazing acting and moments that make us tear up, laugh a lot and feel happy afterwards

Review by Iatua Richard Felagai Taito 03rd Feb 2024

As I enter Māngere Arts Centre – Ngā Tohu o Uenuku, the Pring it On cast starts with an ulufale(entrance) song that sets the tone of Samoan culture into the whole theatre. I feel the mana as Adyhana Urika Filifilia, who plays Penina Toleafoa, one of the lead characters, starts to sing ‘Mua ia’ and the cast and ensemble reply with ‘mua ia mua o’, showing pride and joy in the Gagana Samoa (Samoan language). I feel the welcoming energy from the performers.

Pring it On is a Polynesian twist around the cult classic Bring it On film series, and instead of it being based around cheerleading, this version is based around a Samoan group and instead of it being a national cheerleading competition, it is based around Polyfest which is Aotearoa’s largest cultural event for secondary schools.

After a great ulufale, the charming actor Dimitrius Schuster-Koloamatangi (who plays Naisa) appears, alongside the sassy actress Natalie Toevai (who plays Becky) and the hilarious fa’afafine (gender fluid) actress Petmal Petelo (who plays Pauly). They come together with puns from the Bring it On film as well as Polynesian slang and swag, which make them memorable.  

I see Filifilia bring so much talent, light and likeability as she has a kind demeanour with beautiful singing and dance abilities. As Penina, she wants to convince her Mama Tiesi (played by Joanna Mika-Toloa) to let her join the Samoan group.

Although Mama Tiesi refuses her daughter’s wishes, Penina still joins. Then we see Toevai, who acts so well in evoking Becky’s mean girl energy that audience members can identify as ‘someone you love to hate’, as in films that have that stereotypical caricature. Becky’s best friend or sis is Pauly who makes me chuckle in fits due to her being a flamboyant character that makes us appreciate fa’afafine in Samoan culture. Saying the things people don’t say but are thinking is what makes Petelo’s portrayal of her character so clever and humorous.

As Becky and Pauly judge Penina’s enthusiasm in wanting to be a part of the Samoan group, it catches the eye of Naisa (Schuster-Koloamatangi) who is clearly infatuated with Penina’s talent, beauty but most significantly her heart. As I watched, laughed and smiled through this show, the ensemble, or chorus, makes a great impact due to their collective timing, individualised comedic placements, the way they split into beautiful harmonies from soprano, alto and tenor in amalgamation. They give me chills and a sense of community as I watch, listen and tune into their talents too.

As the show progresses, the narrative starts to delve into diasporic Samoan struggles. For example, if you speak the Samoan language does that make you more Samoan than someone who doesn’t, yet their bloodline is Samoan? As Penina doubts her place in Samoan group, Becky reinforces that to her which adds to the contention around diasporic issues, in which Sosafina plays a key role in wanting to have Penina join the Samoan group. Joyce Salu’s portrayal of Sosafina as the introvert with a clever mind is prevalent. Naisa also wants her to join as he believes she’ll be a massive asset to the Samoan group due to her attitude and talents.

The cast and the ensemble make it clear to the audience that “Polyfest is life” as they state it, and that shows me the strengthening of cultural identity as well as pride in being brown, Pasifika and Samoan. The setting is simple and communal. It adds that Pacific flair when you’re in a Fale (house) and you are with your ‘āiga (family). I continue to feel impressed with the puns from the cult classic as it shows the excellent writing and directing by Leki Jackson-Bourke and Saale ‘Ilaua. When i hear, “As Jesus died for the cross, then you must die for the Samoan group,” I laughed aslong with the audience. At that moment I know that one sentence alone will be iconic as it becomes a foreshadowing theme for this theatre-dance show.

Penina joins the Samoan group and brings up ideas around blending traditional Siva Samoa (Samoan dances) with contemporary movements to create something fresh and new. As Penina rebuttals with her sidekicks Pauly and Sosafina backing her up, they end up doing a battle similar to ‘the riff off’ in the film Pitch Perfect but Samoan style. and it’s another cool moment that is fun and energetic. Ultimately Penina has her nifo oti (Samoan cane knife) same as Becky, they start to siva then suddenly she drops it and we all gasp. I see the symbolism, nifo oti being the spirit stick in comparison to the cult classic film.

I see the chemistry between Penina and Naisa as he shows compassion consciously and unconsciously. That as well as the constant hilarious shade throwing and mocks from Becky and Pauly leave me laughing out loud throughout the show. As the show continues, the ensemble does a well-rehearsed traditional Sāsā (Samoan energetic seated dance) as well as one that is mixed with contemporary motifs: a Siva Samoa which is choreographed beautifully. Big shout out to the choreographers, Leki Jackson-Bourke, Natalie Toevai, Juliana Lologa and Saale ‘Ilaua.

There are so many beautiful moments like when Becky and her best friends Pauly and Sosafina apologise, as well as when Mama Tiesi has a bonding moment with Penina around Siva Samoa – a teary-eyed moment indeed. I feel the power between mother and daughter, and the relationality being so pure that it remains so significant in the show.

And Penina’s monologue in her Samoan adornments and attire as a Taupou (ceremonial hostess of Samoan culture and dance) makes me tear up as she emphasised her strength in being proud to be her authentic self regardless of whether she knows her language or a little; her heart for her culture surpasses any barrier for her.

Pring it On encapsulates the real authentic experiences of trialling for certain roles in the Samoan group like being a Taupou, dealing with hierarchies, singing, dancing, rehearsing non-stop, building a community with juniors and seniors in the group, young love, competition and passion for Samoan dancing and culture. We see all of these things, in big and small ways, and it is a family-friendly show that offers an immersive experience of Samoan culture through a youth lens in an urban Samoan context in Aotearoa. And it shows why embracing your culture while also being conscientious of modernity will allow generational Samoan knowledge to be passed down to new generations.

Malo lava to Strictly Brown’s inaugural show by Leki and Saale. It is a masterpiece of a work. I am excited to see everyone watch Pring it On as it is a must watch show that has beautiful singing, stunning choreography, amazing acting and moments that make us tear up, laugh a lot and feel happy afterwards.

Well done to all the cast, tech team, band and everyone that helped out in this show! Malo lava!


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