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September 12, 2012

Hey! Hey! Whadya Say! A Clap for "Bring It On"

Let’s face it, I’m not the demographic that the producers had in mind when they decided to bring Bring It On to Broadway.  And yet, like just about everyone else who has seen this high-spirited musical currently playing at the St. James Theatre, I had a good time.

Based on a series of popular teen movies, Bring It On tells the story of Campbell, a blonde cheerleader from a suburban high school who is redistricted into a multi-ethnic, inner-city high school without a cheerleading squad. They have a hip-hop dance team instead. 

I don’t think it violates the no-spoilers code to tell you that despite some initial misunderstandings on both sides, Campbell and her new schoolmates learn that they aren’t so different from one another after all.

The fun of this deceptively clever show is watching how they get there. Because Bring It On manages to be more than your average fish-out-of-water story.  

It may be stocked with every high school stereotype you can think of—the alpha-male jocks, the snooty queen bees, the cheery chubby girl, the nerdy computer guy and even the wisecracking LGBT kid—but each one gets to play with his or her cliché in a surprising and entertaining way. 

The credit for this genre bending goes to an all-star creative team that knows how to put on a show for the Millennial Generation.  Avenue Q’s Jeff Whitty did the book (click here to read about how he did it.) Next to Normal’s Tom Kitt and In the Heights’ Lin-Manuel Miranda shared music duties. Miranda and High Fidelity’s Amanda Green collaborated on the lyrics. And Andy Blankenbuehler, who won a Tony for the choreography he did for In the Heights, both directed and choreographed Bring It On.

I’m not going to pretend that I left humming the show's tunes but I can say that I found them suitably bouncy and the lyrics often witty while I was there listening to them. And the book provides a not overly tidy morale that makes the show family-friendly without being icky sweet. 

But what really sets Bring It On apart is the choreography, which incorporates real competitive cheerleading stunts that are so impressively athletic—and so heart-in-your-mouth thrilling—that it’s easy to see why the cheerleading establishment has been pressing for a slot in the summer Olympic Games. 

Some actual cheerleaders have been recruited for the show and they’re usually the ones who climb to the top of the human pyramids that Blankenbuehler has devised. But the other members of the cast also jump, tumble and fly through the air with equally joyful abandon. 

There are 35 people in the cast and 30 of them are making their Broadway debuts (click here to read about some of them).  Taylor Louderman and Adrienne Warren ably lead the team as Campbell and her frenemy Danielle.  But everyone looks to be having a good time. 

And, just like me, you probably will too.

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