Bring It On: The Musical
nytheatre.com review by Judith Jarosz
August 8, 2012
Full disclosure: I've done a wee bit of cheerleading in my time. Yes, the actual "in a uniform rallying crowds at sport events in school" kind. Never competed though, having pretty early on been forced to choose between dance classes and cheer practice. The ballet muse won, but I forever have a respect for the work that goes into training for this type of activity. So when I attended the Broadway show Bring It On I was looking forward to the thrill of the routines. I was not disappointed. I'll have to use my favorite F word. It's a really FUN show.
Directed and choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler, who won the 2008 Tony Award for his choreography in the Tony Award winning Best Musical In the Heights, with an upbeat book by Jeff Whitty, catchy music by Lin-Manuel Miranda (who also won a Tony and a Grammy Award for the original score of In the Heights) and Tom Kitt, and clever lyrics by Amanda Green and Mr. Miranda, this production produces one cheer thrill after another, while keeping us giggling or laughing out loud. While the show is given the same title as a popular movie released in 2000, this script follows its own original storyline, and the ending is refreshingly not predictable.
The story is simple and show is well cast, following the trials of Campbell, a popular teen who finds out just as she is elected to be captain of her high school cheerleading squad that a "rezoning" of her neighborhood has bumped her to another school. We have a roster of characters both at the old school and the new that end up competing against each other in a cheerleading competition. There are the conflicts of personality and aches of budding romance that accompany any high school environment, but amidst this teen melodrama, this story has an important message about life at the end.
Campbell is played by Taylor Louderman with a droll sincerity that works well. Adrienne Warren portrays Danielle, the leader of the girls at the new edgier school, with sassy wit and a big belt voice. Kate Rockwell as the pretty snob, Ryann Rodemond as the picked-on zaftig girl, Gregory Haney as the tough-but-tender cross dresser, Jason Gotay as the shy boy, and Elle McLemore as the sophomore who worships Campbell all do a nice job of making their characters come to life, with details that transcend any cartoonish stereotypes. Indeed the entire ensemble (there are 30 in the cast) do a great job.
And Blankenbuehler really does a magnificent job, not only with the dance and cheers sections, but also with the transitions from one scene to the next. Some my favorite quieter movement moments were of simple transitions where the stage pictures capture the chaos of high school halls in a controlled artistic manner. And then there are those cheers. The show has a nice balance of subdued dialogue scenes to active mania, and just when you think things are staying calm, there are bodies thrusting up and flipping high (very high) in the air producing immense delighted gasps from the audience.
Set design by David Korins includes moving flat screens that suggest the feeling of a sports stadium, but are also cleverly used again and again as projected backdrops for different locations, from bedroom shelving to hallway walls. Music supervision and dance arrangements by Alex Lacamoire are top-notch. Costumes designed by Andrea Lauer are perfectly suited to the different styles of today's youth, from standard preppy to the wildly artistic, and the lighting design by Jason Lyons is outstanding. Cheers also go out to sound designer Brian Ronan, video designer Jeff Sugg, and hair and wig design Charles G. LaPointe. While I'm at it … a rallying RAH for production stage manager Bonnie Panson, who has a whole lot on her plate for this show, and executes it without a hitch. GASP … whew … Yeah!