Thursday, June 13, 2024

MTSU freshman stars in “Bring It On: The Musical”


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Featured photo by Emma Dolberry

Story by Luke Cameron 

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Middle Tennessee State University freshman Emma Dolberry is currently starring in “Bring It On: The Musical” at the Center for the Arts in downtown Murfreesboro. The show runs through April 7.

“Bring It On: The Musical” is loosely based on the 2000 film with Kirsten Dunst. The musical, like the film, is about young people navigating the challenging worlds of both high school and competitive cheerleading.

In the musical Dolberry plays the main character Campbell. She said of Campbell, “She’s just the average cheerleader, cheer captain, of the school.”

Dolberry is a Spring Hill native, and she graduated from Summit High School in 2023. At MTSU she is studying theatre education, with a minor in musical theatre.

“I’ve been performing since I was 16,” Dolberry said. She got her start in a stage production of “High School Musical.”

Growing up, she and her older brother were huge aficionados of the Disney Channel original movie. After years of fruitlessly begging her brother to do theatre, she finally was able to persuade him to do so when they learned that Summit was to put on a stage version of “High School Musical.”

That was during her sophomore year of high school, and Dolberry has been performing steadily since. At Summit, she went on to appear in “Mamma Mia,” “The Little Mermaid” as the title character, “Narnia: The Musical” as the White Witch, “Anne of Green Gables” as Josie Pye, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” as Hermia, “The Dining Room,” and a murder mystery show.

Furthermore, she directed “It’s not you, it’s me” and “So You Wanna Be a Cheerleader.”

Dolberry also has experience gracing MTSU’s Tucker Theatre stage. In November she appeared in Cinderella as a member of the ensemble. She was also the understudy for Ella, the main character.

When in January she and some performer friends from MTSU, Sydney Burdine and Caleb Heath, saw that the Center was holding auditions for “Bring It On,” they decided to act. All three were cast in the show, along with fellow MTSU student Miranda Laurent.

The show’s cast of 27 or so performers rehearsed four and five days a week from January until the show’s premiere on March 22. Rehearsal days even included pre-rehearsal workouts.

“My favorite thing about musicals is the dancing,” Dolberry said. “I am the best at hip hop. She has also cheered since she was small. Those talents have served her well in her role in ‘Bring it On.'”

That prior training has not insulated her from the inevitable blows of show business, however. “I’m sore, I have bruises everywhere,” Dolberry said. “It’s a very demanding show.”

The musical is music intensive, with over 20 songs. Moreover, with the ample amount of acting, dancing, and cheer stunts involved, the whole operation takes a toll on one’s body, soul, and voice. Plus, the show runs three weekends, and on Saturdays there are two shows: one at 2:00 p.m. and one at 7:30 p.m.

It all adds up to a labor of love for the burgeoning star. “It is the most exhausting thing ever,” she said.

To help her soldier on through rehearsals, keep hydrated, and maintain a strong and clear voice, Dolberry backstage drinks Liquid I.V. powders dissolved in water, uses nasal strips, and even takes to chugging bottles of honey during costume changes. “I pour it in my mouth,” she said of the honey.

Despite her best efforts, though, exhaustion has occasionally gotten the best of her—like when she got a little too comfortable sitting backstage before a recent performance. “I fell asleep right before ‘places,’” she said. Fortunately, some backstage folks roused her from her slumber and sent her on her way.

Despite all the travails and responsibilities that come with headlining a hit musical, it has been well worth it for Dolberry. “This is my favorite show I’ve ever done, the favorite cast I’ve been with,” she said.

Thus, when “Bring It On” shows, and Dolberry’s nights having to stay up until 2 a.m. to fit in some homework time, come to an end, she believes it will leave a bittersweet feeling within her.

Dolberry says the paramount foremost message “Bring It On” conveys to audiences is, “Not to judge people by their covers, their appearances.” Other themes are the importance of self-confidence; how to be comfortable in one’s own physical body, however imperfect the world tells you it is; the necessity of friendship; and “how to be a friend.”

The show is about 2.5 hours long, has an intermission, and runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (with the exception of Easter Sunday) through April 7. Showtimes are Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Center for the Arts is located at 110 W. College Street in downtown Murfreesboro. Tickets can be purchased on-site or at

To contact Lifestyles Editor Destiny Mizell and Assistant Lifestyles Editor Shamani Salahuddin, email For more news, visit, or follow us on Instagram at MTSUSidelines or on X at @MTSUSidelines.

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