We gave it a B+
It’s looking like a season for girl power on Broadway. A big-budget Annie revival and a high-profile musical adaptation of Matilda are waiting in the wings, but first we get an invasion of high-flying, pompom-waving cheerleaders in a new stage version of the 2000 big-screen teen comedy Bring It On.
The production stick-lands on Broadway after a nationwide tour that kicked off last November in L.A. (here’s our original review, by EW’s Tanner Stransky). And what Bring It On: The Musical lacks in subtlety and nuance it more than makes up for in energy and high-flying acrobatics — and not a guide wire in sight (take that, Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark!). Thanks to director-choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler’s athletic routines, the hard-working, basket-tossing ensemble is operating the best (human) pyramid racket in town.
The sunny and sitcommy book by Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q) is only loosely based on the Kirsten Dunst film — in fact, it more closely resembles the 2006 sequel, about a perky blond girl (Taylor Louderman, hard-working and sweet-voiced but a little bland) who is uprooted from her privileged, upper-middle-class high school and sent to a more racially diverse inner-city school by an arbitrary act of redistricting. There, the queen bee is the confident leader of a hip-hop dance crew (a dynamic Adrienne Warren) — who joins forces to take on our heroine’s former squad-mates.
What follows is the sort of high school high jinks you’ve seen on countless ABC Family shows over the years, with little life lessons about getting along, hard work, and accepting people as they are. The cast is chock-full of familiar high school types, from the dumb jock (So You Think You Can Dance finalist Neil Haskell) to the sensitive hoodie-wearing guy (Jason Gotay), from the plus-size Bridget (Ryann Redmond) to the vain blonde Skylar (Kate Rockwell, who gleefully tears into punchlines like ”I’m so upset that I’m actually going to eat something”). The cleverest addition to the roster: a cross-dressing scene-stealer hilariously named La Cienega (played with head-tossing spunk by Gregory Haney).
The score, by Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights), with lyrics by Miranda and Amanda Green (High Fidelity), runs the gamut from traditional show tune to pop to hip-hop. And while none of songs is bound to become a radio-ready hit, this is one of the few Broadway musicals in recent memory that sounds like it was composed in this century. The strongest number: an R&B-inflected be-yourself show-stopper called ”It Ain’t No Thing,” performed by Redmond, Haney, and Ariana DeBose.
Appropriately enough, the song is a trio. Cheerleaders aren’t solo artists, after all, so it’s no surprise that Bring It On shines brightest when the entire cast is on stage, hitting their somersaulting, back-flipping, basket-tossing marks. B+
(Tickets: Telecharge.com or 800-432-7250)