Story: Poor Campbell Davis. Just when she’s set to captain her high school’s nationally renowned cheerleading squad, she learns that she’s been transferred to another school by unexpected gerrymandering of local public school districts. This move puts blonde, perky Campbell and her dorky classmate Bridget in a school where cheerleading has considerably less cachet than at her old alma mater.
That doesn’t matter to Campbell, though. While her former comrades Skylar and Kylar and newbie cheerleader Eva, who professes to adore Campbell and her routines, prepare to win Truman High School’s sixth consecutive national championship, Campbell attempts to rally the troops at her new school, where tough-talking Danielle leads the largely African-American contingent in its caustic appraisal of pompons and pyrotechnics. While Eva puts the moves on Campbell’s boyfriend Steven and looks more and more to be running the cheerleading practices at good old Truman High, Campbell and Danielle form an alliance at Jackson High to merge hip-hop and gymnastics at Campbell’s new school and “bring it on” in competition with her former schoolmates.
Highlights: Based on a movie comedy from 2000 that proved to be a hit with teen audiences and spawned four direct-to-video sequels, this two-act musical adaptation premiered in Atlanta in early 2011 before beginning a national tour last November. The touring production stars youthful Muny veteran Taylor Louderman as the effervescent Campbell and includes among its producers Kristen Caskey, president of Fox Theatricals, and Mike Isaacson, who heads Fox Theatricals with Caskey and also is the new executive producer of The Muny.
It’s fun to see a production with such noteworthy local talent both on and behind the stage. Beyond that, though, Bring It On: The Musical stands on its own as a fun-filled evening of entertainment chockfull with jaw-dropping gymnastics and eye-popping choreography that dominate the evening as soon as the jumbotron basketball court clock winds down to zero.
Other Info: Bring It On: The Musical offers an impressive pedigree of Tony Award winners among its credentials. Its libretto is written by Jeff Whitty, who also penned Avenue Q. Music is composed by Tom Kitt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the former a Pulitzer Prize winner for Next to Normal and the latter the composer of In the Heights. Miranda co-wrote the lyrics with Amanda Green of High Fidelity fame, while music supervision and dance arrangements are courtesy of Alex Lacamoire, who took home a Grammy for Wicked. The highly charged and energetic choreography and smart direction are provided by Andy Blankenbuehler, who also was a driving force for In the Heights.
The show’s primary problem is that it lags substantially in Act II when it becomes bogged down by a succession of syrupy ballads. When the music is high-octane, however, as it is through most of Act I and with the spirited finale, Bring It On is a bundle of irrepressible charm fueled by the dazzling energy and impressive skills of the multi-talented cast, who can perform feats of athletic derring-do as well as sing and dance with elan.
Louderman, who’s performed in Legally Blonde, Footloose, Aida and other musicals, has the personality to match her fine comic skills in the primary role of Campbell. Adrienne Warren is equally adept at commanding the stage as the hard-working Danielle, who’s looking to further herself with a college education but right now holds down a part-time job at the local Burger Pagoda.
Kate Rockwell is a delight as the vapid but self-content Skylar, while Jason Gotay is endearing as Randall, Campbell’s burgeoning love interest at her new school. Elle McLemore relishes boos and hisses she generates as the villainous Eva, a role she handles with aplomb, and Neil Haskell is Campbell’s shallow Truman High boyfriend Steven. Ryann Redmond makes the most of the part of Bridget, the chunky, invisible girl whose efforts to land a cheerleading spot previously have resulted in more time as the school mascot, but whose indomitable spirit wins out in the end. Janet Krupin has fun as Skylar’s tagalong protégé, Kylar.
Others in the exuberant cast include Michael Mindlin, Nicolas Womack, Dominique Johnson, Ariana DeBose, Gregory Haney, Calli Alden, Haley Hannah, Alysha Umphress, Shonica Gooden and Nick Blaemire as a ‘cheer camp leader’ and assorted students, including a boy who likes to dress like a girl.
Jason Lyons’ vibrant lighting handsomely illuminates David Korins’ set, which allows ample room for the flashy moves choreographed by Blankenbuehler and impressively demonstrated by his youthful cast, while Andrea Lauer’s costumes emphasize the teen spirit and styles of the characters.
If you can avoid those goofy ballads, you’re apt to have a fine time admiring the athletic prowess of the cast and the exuberant energy its members bring to the fore in this light-hearted and smile-inducing presentation.
Musical: Bring It On: The Musical
Group: Touring Company
Venue: Fox Theatre, 527 North Grand Blvd.
Dates: Through April 8
Tickets: From $15; contact 534-1111 or metrotix.com
Rating: A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photos courtesy of Craig Schwartz