- CHARITY BENEFIT
I cannot believe I am saying this but the cheerleading extravaganza “Bring It On: The Musical,” at the St. James Theater, had me cheering and that was not an easy thing to do. I was in a rotten mood and this thoroughly talented cast and winning show made me smile and leave the theatre in “Glee.” First the high octane gymnastics are high flying adored. Based on the hit film series of the same name, this version has a much more amusing and heartfelt book by Tony Award-winning Jeff Whitty (“Avenue Q”). The terrific score by Pulitzer Prize-winning Tom Kitt, (“Next to Normal”) with lyrics by Tony Award-winning, Pulitzer finalist Lin-Manuel Miranda, (“In the Heights”) and Amanda Green (the Broadway-bound “Hands on a Hardbody”) rock the school lockers. The pedigrees are high; Amanda is the lyricist daughter of Adolph Green. The “Height’s choreographer is also the director in the form of one hands on Andy Blankenbuehler. Andy has managed to get some of the most real performances, I have ever seen on a stage, while getting his cast to act like human rocket ships. I believed every moment in this newcomer quarto threat based cast.
Just because the musical is “inspired” by the film, this show is its own depiction of adolescence. We still have our heroine Campbell (Taylor Louderman) who is stoked at getting her dream of becoming head cheerleader of the Truman High School trophy winning cheerleading squad. She defeats herself when absorbed mean girl rival, friend Skylar (Kate Rockwell), befriends perky Sophmore Eva (Elle McLemore, who thinks she should impersonate Kristin Chenoweth) and all seems perfect until she is redistricted on the first day of school to the poor, ethnic kids’ school Jackson High. OMG they have no squad and now she has no dreams and her only friend is the ex-mascot of Truman, the overweight Bridget (the adorable Ryann Redmond), who becomes the insider as Campbell becomes the outsider.
The show comes alive when Campbell meets new rival Danielle (Adrienne Warren), the head of the school’s hip-hop dance crew. The two do not get along until Campbell agrees to don the school’s mascot outfit and hip hops her way into the hearts of the Jackson classmates. Campbell connives to get Danielle to transform the dance crew into a cheer squad, when she realizes Eva was behind her transfer. When Danielle finds out she rebels but friendship prevails and the girls go on the state championships.
There are clichés here, but who cares and gay has now made transvestites cool, as the kids from Jackson make their mark as individuals. Jason Gotay (Randall), Ariana DeBose (Nautica), Gregory Haney (La Cienega), Neil Haskell (Steven), Dominique Johnson (Cameron), Janet Krupin (Kylar), and Nicolas Womack (Twig) all get their chance to shine and shine they all do. There are stars in the making in this cast as they act, sing, dance, tumble and leap to the heights.
As Skylar states “Oh well! I like myself. Always did.” Bring it On is like a human 4th of July and you will sit in awe of this show that can and will make you cheer. This is a show for everybody.
Bring It On: The Musical St. James Theater, 246 West 44th Street.