“Bring It On—The Musical” at the St. James Theatre in New York City
by Zander Opper
On Broadway, shows opening during the summer months have grown increasingly rare, with many producers choosing instead to present their productions in April or May, just in time for the Tony Awards. Well, “Bring It On—The Musical,” the sunny new show that has just recently taken root at the St. James Theatre, has decided to buck the trend and it’s nice to report that this musical is as bubbly and sweet as the best summer refreshments one may indulge in. Based on the 2000 motion picture of the same name, “Bring It On—The Musical” is actually a touring production intended for just a limited run on Broadway. However, the pedigree of this show’s creative team is about as stellar as you will see nowadays—both its book writer, Jeff Whitty, songwriting team of Tom Kitt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, and director, Andy Blankenbuehler all have Tony Awards to their credit. Considering that “Bring It On” concerns the feather-weight story of the competition between two rival high school cheerleading squads, one could lament that talents of this level haven’t aspired to a musical of loftier heights. But when a show can be as feel-good and downright fun as “Bring It On” often is, who cares? With a catchy score, a talented company, and a bright production, “Bring It On” can certainly be considered a winner.
A word must immediately be said about how wonderful this cast of young performers is. A record 32 actors are making their Broadway debuts in “Bring It On,” but you could hardly tell, considering how tremendously gifted this company is, both singly and as a whole. In the lead role of Campbell, one of the head cheerleaders, Taylor Louderman is a joy and, like everyone else onstage, one truly cares about her character and how the final cheerleading competition will turn out. Indeed, one of the best things about Jeff Whitty’s book is that he has taken the various high school stereotypes (the most popular girl, the “outcast,” etc.) and turned them into unique people that one can root for. Also shining in the cast is Adrienne Warren, as the most popular girl from the rival high school, and Ryann Redmond, as the misfit who ends up not only a cheerleader, but lands a guy, as well. However, special mention must be made about Gregory Haney as La Cienega—he is easily the most endearing and funniest drag character since Angel in “Rent,” gets all the best lines, and pretty much walks away with the show.
Of course, I have yet to even mention the most significant aspect of this musical—the mind-boggling, gravity-defying cheerleading routines that are pretty much the reason that “Bring It On” was created in the first place. As staged by director/choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, these routines are downright astonishing and every last actor in the company has been drilled to the point where the performers are almost flying through the air, to heights that Broadway has never seen before. And the fact that these young actors make everything look so easy makes their incredible feats of acrobatics all the more jaw-dropping.
However, in “Bring It On,” these cheerleading routines make up only about fifteen to twenty minutes of an over two hour show. What really makes this musical work is that the score is pretty much terrific from the first song on (and I should mention that the co-lyricist is Amanda Green, daughter of the late, renowned Adolf Green, easily one of the best writers that Broadway has ever seen); there are at least a half dozen lines that are flat-out, fall-out-of-your-seat funny; and the company is wholly endearing. By all means, get yourself to “Bring It On—The Musical” at the St. James Theatre, for a show that is this much of a kick and this refreshing—with a cast this amazing—is just too good to pass up. For tickets, you can call Telecharge at 212-239-6200 or go to http://www.bringitonmusical.com.