Tuesday, September 11, 2012

theatre review BRING IT ON, Broadway, Aug 21

After what seems like a slew of Broadway musicals based on movies where the musical is almost a scene by scene replay of the film, it is refreshing that the new musical Bring It On takes little more than the name and theme of the 2000 cheer leading movie it comes from.  With a completely new plot and characters, the musical is an exuberant two plus hours of comedy, music, dance and high flying cheer leading acrobatics.  We enjoyed it so much we are going back in a few weeks with our nieces.

Telling the story of what happens when Campbell, the perky, driven cheer leading team captain of a high school is redistricted to a different school over in the "hood" where she doesn't quite fit in and they don't even have a cheer leading "squad," Bring It On is the perfect "fish out of water" story with a dash of All About Eve thrown in as well.  Will Campbell succeed at her new school?  Can she convince them to start a "squad" to compete against her former school to win the cheer leading championship?  The script doesn't always go where you think it will go, which is nice and refreshing.  There are characters in this show we've seen before but also plenty that we haven't.  Much of the success of this musical can be credited to the witty script by Jeff Whitty.

Taylor Louderman and Adrienne Warren
Campbell is the team captain forced to now go to the new school, leaving her boyfriend, team mates and championship bound cheer leading squad behind.  Taylor Louderman plays Campbell with the appropriate amount of high energy as well as fear for her new surroundings.  She has the perfect fresh faced look of the girl who can easily be the team captain but also the right amount of acting skills to not only pull off the loneliness of suddenly being an outsider but also the Broadway caliber vocal skills to pull off singing about that experience as well.

Ryann Redmond and Taylor Louderman
Ryann Redmond is Bridget who also gets redistricted along with Campbell.  Bridget has been the team mascot for the past few years but longs to be a full fledged cheer leader.  Redmond is sassy, hysterical and the perfect oddball friend that anyone would love to have on their side.  She also has impeccable comic timing.  If this show opened next Spring I would think that Redmond would have a strong chance of getting a Tony nom for her performance but I'm still hoping she'll be remembered next Spring by the Tony nominating committee.

Adrienne Warren is Danielle the leader of the "crew" at the new school who Campbell attempts to befriend.  Warren has the perfect blend of sass and "you think you're better then me but you aren't" attitude but also has a compassionate side as well.  She is the kind of character that is realistically rough around the edges and Warren is up to the challenge of playing this character that could easily come across as one we've seen before, but has plenty of layers to it.

Gregory Haney
I also absolutely loved how the character of La Cienega, who is clearly a gay man who prefers to dress up as a woman, required no explanation, back story or heartbreaking revelation.  He just "was," no excuses required.  Gregory Haney was outstanding in the part as well and got some of the biggest applause at the curtain call.

The majority of the cast is making their Broadway debuts with many of them having had years of college cheer leading experience.   However, with so many professional cheer leaders in the cast, it is nice to see that the majority of the main cast is tasked in the cheer leading routines as well, with a couple of them involved in more of the highly intricate and even some of the high flying routines.

Director / choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler seamlessly weaves together the cheer leading sequences into the story with many of them naturally building from the musical numbers.  But he also includes plenty of modern day dancing as well, with the dancing by the "crew" at Campbell's new school especially effective.  With a score by three different composers you might think that the music wouldn't quite gel together but it does with many effective numbers.  It helps that you have Tony winners Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights) providing the music with Miranda and Amanda Green the lyrics.

one of the high flying cheer sequences
 This production comes to Broadway for a limited run after a national tour.  While it might have the look and feel of a somewhat bare bones touring production, the minimal set pieces and video screens are effectively used and are almost always moving that you don't miss huge and elaborate set pieces.  The set design by David Korins and the lighting design by Jason Lyons is extremely effective and brings the entire production.

Bring It On is the first musical of the 2012-2013 season and it is a breath of fresh air.  The original limited run has now been extended to the end of January, so make sure to catch it if you're up for a fun filled, high energy, high flying time.

Official Show Site

Highlights from the musical:

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