If you look at the creative team behind Bring It On, it’s a crew of some of the freshest young talent to grace Broadway over the past several years. It has a book by Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q), music by Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights) and lyrics by Amanda Green (Hands on a Hard Body) and Miranda. When I first heard that this team was behind this show, I had one of those “Really? With Seth and Amy” moments. It struck me as such odd choices for this bubblegum confection.
The story is not much to write home about. Campbell, played by Taylor Louderman, is a teenage cheerleader headed into her senior year of high school. She has just been elected captain of the cheer team when she receives a letter telling her that due to redistricting she will no longer be going to Truman high school but instead will be going to Jackson high school, a much more urban school with no cheer team at all.
After transferring to Jackson, Campbell finds out how she wound up there. She was betrayed by a freshman cheerleader, Eva, played by Elle Mclemore. Eva's mother is on the school board and was responsible for having Campbell transferred. This is all done so her daughter can become team captain.
Once Campbell is at Jackson high school, she begins to hang with a “crew”. At this high school instead of a cheer team they have a crew. It’s led by Danielle, played by the very sexy and talented Adrienne Warren, and includes a trans-gender character, La Cienega, fiercely played by Gregory Haney and a third member of this trio, Nautica, a sassy Ariana DeBose. Campbell talks the students at Jackson high school into creating a cheer team by telling them that the winner gets a reality show and a college scholarship. Ultimately it becomes apparent to the members of the crew that there isn’t any reality show and there aren’t any scholarships. In one of the show's many mini morality tales, Campbell finds out she is no better than Eva.
The cast of this high energy, glazed doughnut of a musical is simply spectacular. Ms. Louderman hits the notes and the landings. As her new best friend, Bridget, Ryann Redmond is funny but at times her performance involved a bit of scenery chewing, nothing egregious. Kate Rockwell is the snobby and shallow wanna-be leader of the cheer squad who doesn't get enough votes. Her motto, "sometimes pretty is enough.”
Whitty’s script has some very pithy one-liners, like when Campbell refers to Skyler as “Bitter Bitch Barbie.” It also has some timely references like Bristol Palin and the 1%,But it also has a reference to Ms. Cleo, who most kids today probably wouldn’t know.
The music by Kitt and Miranda Blends together nicely though Miranda’s In the Heights can be heard on “Do Your Own Thing” and “It’s All Happening.”
Andy Blankenbuehler (In the Heights) has directed and choreographed Bring It On with a perpetual sense of motion. He's interwoven choreography and cheering seamlessly. These towers of humans give the choreography a vertical motion that you don’t see in traditional choreography, even with lifts.
Blankenbuehler’s direction is aided by set designer David Korins’s facile scenery. As with just about every new musical these days they included projections. The projections were designed by Jeff Sugg and are shown on four giant suspended television screens that the cast must continually navigate lest they run into one of them a la Bret Michaels at the 2009 Tony Awards. Blankenbuehler has creatively used Skype-like conversations on the television screens between several of the girls.
The light plot for this show was massive. The back and side wall of the stage, and of course front of house, were all lights. Jason Lyons's lighting was impressive in its scope as well as its artistry. But there was something interesting. Many of the lights used on this show were low wattage LED lights. I don’t recall ever having seen another show that used these to the extent that this show does.
This talented creative team has created a piece that serves the original material perfectly. Eventually you are going to see Bring It On in every highschool from here to Walla Walla. I never saw the movie, and think that might have been a good thing for this musical. My advice would be to go see Bring It On. It’s funny fluff with enough theatrical magic to make you feel you got your money’s worth. The cast alone is worth the price of admission.
Bring It On is a limited, 12-week run through January 20, 2013.
Did you see the show? Have your own thoughts? Share them below.