Theatre Review: Bring It On: The Musical
The cast of BRING IT ON: THE MUSICAL. Photo: Joan Marcus.
Bring It On brings its super-peppy ‘cheersperience’ to Broadway
Ah, summertime… The few months were theatrical expectations are lowered/non-existent, because let’s face it: There’s not a lot going on, and what is being produced is so often such a crapshoot (hello, Fringe!), that it’s not nearly worth the energy of sifting through shows with titles like American Midget and Who Murdered Love? to search out that sole diamond in the rough. (We all know that if it’s any good, it’ll be unearthed later for (off-) Broadway fame à la Urinetown or Silence! The Musical).
Bring It On: The Musical, on the other hand, is an easy summer ‘YES!’ — and here’re three reasons why:
- The source material. The 2000 film starring a perky, barely known, barely legal Kirsten Dunst as the white bread cheer captain who, under duress, is transferred to the high school in the ‘hood, is actually pretty darn funny. Penned by former model Jessica Bendinger, Bring It On the film is the most glorious of guilty pleasures, full of bitchy zingers and vapid humor. Jeff Whitty, the Tony Award-winning writer of Avenue Q, repurposes the plot of all five — yes, five! — films: softening the snark and pushing the lessons (teamwork! friendship! honesty!), this well-intentioned musical adaptation is more glittery jazz hands than cutting cat fight. Then again, who doesn’t love a little summer sparkle?
- Lin-Manuel Miranda. If you’re going to have a feel-good summer hit, you’ve gotta have a little Lin-Manuel. The In the Heights composer doesn’t disappoint, pairing his signature hip-hop rhythms with savvy, winking rhymes. Sure, it all sounds a little too Heights-like, but his exuberant musical offerings easily best the bland “I Really, Really, Really, Really Wanna Be a Cheerleader” ballads that Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) contributes ad nauseam. (While the playbill doesn’t designate who penned what, it’s pretty clear)
- Flips! Pikes! Basket tosses! Director-choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler (In the Heights) matches Miranda’s propulsive beats with ballsy backflips and bombastic high school swagger. His high-flying acrobatics, assisted by cheer consultant Jessica Colombo, make for jaw-dropping cheer routines that cause you to wonder — and worry — how these crazy-talented guys and gals (many of them award-winning cheerleaders and gymnasts) do it night after night sans safety net. Spidey, take note: this is how you fly.
It has its faults — sparse (re: cheap) touring set; superfluous, forgettable ballads; cliched high school types — but it’s solid touring show that hit its sweet spot on Broadway for a limited summer run. (Oh, wait — it just got extended through January. Shocker!) Snappy and sassy, Bring It On isn’t as deliriously delightful as that most giddy of guilty pleasures (Legally Blonde: The Musical for the win!), but it has a hardworking, likable cast (especially charming: Ryann Redmond as the pudgy parrot mascot, Bridget and Gregory Haney as the divalicious La Cienega); swift direction and clever choreography; and those amazing cheertastic stunts. If you must spend a summer afternoon or evening in a darkened theatre, this is the way to do it: frothy, mindless, and with eye candy to spare, Bring It On is a perfectly enjoyable summer show.