How delightful to experience a Broadway show that’s family friendly, and great fun for adults, too. As soon as I got home from seeing Bring It On: The Musical, I e-mailed my friend whose thirteen-year-old daughter loves going with her to the theater. “This is the one,” I told her. “Buy your tickets now.”
The plot is pretty simple, and the actors are uniformly terrific. Campbell (Taylor Louderman), is a pretty teenage girl who gets her wish to be named head cheerleader; her squad includes her perfect, bitchy friend, Skylar (Kate Rockwell). Their parrot mascot is the requisite plus-sized, geeky girl Bridget (Ryann Redmond). Sadly for Campbell, she’s transferred to a different, much rougher school, and the scheming Eva (Elle McLemore) takes her place. At her new school, Jackson High, Campbell meets some tough but gifted kids, including the group leader, Danielle (Adrienne Warren), a cute boy named Randall (Jason Gotay), and the transvestite, La Cienega (Gregory Haney).
After some ups and downs—and a bizarre number where Campbell dresses up as a leprechaun and prances around the stage—Campbell is befriended by the Jackson High crowd, and is able to create a new cheerleading squad. Along the way, there’s some tuneful music, a few lessons to be learned, and riveting gymnastics. True, there’s a little vulgar language; it isn’t necessary, but it’s also pretty mild. I was uneasy at the laughter brought about by the knocks on the unattractive girl, but Redmond’s warmth and talent quickly trumped any mockery. All in all, this production is easy, breezy, and cool.
Yes, a lot of the show is derivative (Sorry, Madonna, not “deductive”). After all, it’s very loosely based on the movie Bring It On, a charmer which spawned several sequels. There’s an homage to Chorus Line, when all the kids stand at the apron of the stage, form a line, and face the audience. And the leads do fall into easily defined types. Louderman is a restyled Alicia Silverstone (think Clueless); McLemore harkens back to Kristin Chenowith; and Warren could be Janet Jackson’s younger, prettier sister. Not to mention the inevitable Glee factor.
But then, who cares? Once the real cheerleader starts, complete with amazing throws, tumbling, and sky high energy, I dare anyone to sit there in gloom. Had the performers not been so confident and so obviously capable, I would have feared a Spiderman style injury rate; the moves are extremely daring.
In fact, this production is everything Lysistrata Jones wasn’t, but should have been. Director Andy Blankenbuehler, who also did the choreography, keeps things moving at a breakneck pace. The costumes, by Andrea Lauer, are bright and sparkly. I loved In The Heights, so I find it no wonder that, once again, Lin-Manuel Miranda (aided by Tom Kitt with music, Amanda Green with lyrics) would turn out such great songs. I predict “One Perfect Moment” will be heard during the next Olympics.
The show has been extended through January 20, 2013 so time to take the kids before and after the holidays. But don’t feel it’s necessary to bring a youngster just so you can enjoy the show guilt free. After all, these days we can all use a little cheer to brighten things up.
Bring It On: The Musical
St. James Theatre
246 West 44th Street
Through January 20, 2013
Michall Jeffers is an accomplished Cultural Journalist. She writes extensively, both in print and online. Her eponymous cable TV show is syndicated throughout the tri-state area, and features celebrity interviews, reviews, and commentary. She is a voting member of Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, American Theatre Critics Association, and International Association of Theatre Critics.