Monday, November 26, 2012

Review: Bring It On: The Musical

On a Friday night a few weeks ago I did something that I've never done before: I saw a Broadway myself. I've had plenty of experience going to the theatre on my own before, but the shows I've seen alone in the last few years have been smaller productions from regional companies or universities. Broadway is a different story. I'm accustomed to feeling at home with the groups of tourists when attending a show with my family, but though the audience of Bring It On: The Musical was mostly around my age, I did feel out of place as a more seasoned theatre patron attending the show alone. Nevertheless, Bring It On was so fun that I forgot how out of place I was and had a very enjoyable night at the theatre.

Image via my Instagram.
I've never seen the film of the same name that the musical was based on (I know, I don't deserve to call myself a Millenial), but from what I've read on Wikipedia and IMDb, the plots are not as similar as those of other musical adaptations of popular films. In this musical entry into the Bring it On canon, a bright young cheerleader named Campbell has it all: great friends, a great boyfriend and a spot on the top of the social food chain at Truman High School. To top it all off, she's just been voted the captain of the acclaimed Truman cheerleading squad. Weeks before school starts, Campbell receives a letter notifying her that she's been redistricted and must report to Jackson High School for her senior year. Jackson is on the "other side of the tracks" and Campbell is a little out of place among the metal detectors and grafitti-covered lockers. She decides to join the closest thing to a cheerleading squad that Jackson has: a dance crew. After some vetting, she’s accepted and convinces the crew to try out for the national cheerleading competition to get revenge on Eva, the sophomore who’s taken her place as queen bee and cheerleading captain at Truman.

Though the story is a little predictable, Bring It On really brings the fun with awesome cheerleading-inspired choreography. Many of the ensemble members have some kind of cheerleading background allowing them to toss their castmates so high they almost hit the stage lights and flip across the stage with ease. As it is a musical about cheerleading, the young cast brings the appropriate amount of energy to their performances. It definitely helps that Bring It On marks the Broadway debut of many members of the cast. The music is good, but a bit less memorable. Lin-Manuel Miranda and Tom Kitt’s score definitely shines on the more hip-hop influenced numbers, Miranda’s strong suit as seen in his Tony Award winning score for In The Heights. The first act spends a good deal of time building Campbell’s high school world and the rather expositioney writing wasn’t my favorite (to be fair, I’m picky). The writing picks up in the second act, however, adding lots of topical jokes about social media and pop culture (Doctor Who references! Nerds rejoice!). The timeliness of the writing does make me a bit concerned about the play’s future (and that of other musicals that take on a similar style), but that’s a discussion for another post.

Some standout performances include Ryann Redmond’s Bridget, a big girl who’s been relegated to mascot duty for years at Truman but really finds herself at Jackson. Redmond can really belt and she brings both humor and humility to the story. And the girl can rap! I hope to see this CAP 21 student in many more performances in New York and beyond. I also loved Elle McLemore’s portrayal of Eva, a sweet cheerleader with a bit of a vengeful side (when I say a vengeful side, I really mean that she turns into a blonde Gollum by the end of the show).

For another musical based on a popular film, I was pretty impressed with Bring It On. Though it might not sit on the shelf of the great American musicals, it was just a lot of lighthearted fun. And hey, if that’s the way Broadway’s going right now, I guess I can get behind it.

Bring It On: The Musical is currently running at the St. James Theatre at 246 W. 44th St., New York, NY through December 30. Tickets start at $39. General Rush tickets are available for $35 beginning when the box office opens (cash only, limit two per person). For more information, check out

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