If you jumped on board the Lin-Manuel Miranda train because of Hamilton, that’s perfectly OK. If you’re a Miranda originalist and began your relationship because of his breakout In the Heights, even better. But between those shows, Miranda had a hand in writing another musical that deserves far more appreciation than it’s received in the five years since it first opened on Broadway.
Working with Tom Kitt and Amanda Green, Miranda co-wrote the music for Bring It On The Musical, the stage adaptation of the 2000 cheerleading comedy (or, to be slightly more accurate, its 2006 direct-to-DVD threequel, Bring It On: All or Nothing). The show toured a bit around the country before landing on Broadway in August 2012, enjoying a brief run with particular electricity in the summer months when buses of teen campers would scream their heads off in the mezzanine.
It was, after all, half a musical and half the most intense (and well-lit) episode of America’s Got Talent you’ve ever seen. The cheerleading alone was spectacular, with the fish-out-of-water plot easy enough to digest and the characters especially charming — if ever a pair deserved a spin-off, it’s haughty dancers Nautica and LaCienega (played, coincidentally, by Hamilton actors Ariana DeBose and Gregory Haney).
Anyway, Bring It On didn’t last long. Maybe it’s because the show chose not to follow the plot of original movie and instead found its north star in loosely adapting a 2006 Hayden Panettiere sequel no one saw. Maybe it’s because the summer is a notorious Broadway dead zone, even for a limited engagement. Or maybe Bring It On was just never meant to last too long on the Main Stem. It has, after all, certainly enjoyed a greater audience in its afterlife, earning a surprise Tony nod for Best Musical months after it shuttered in December 2012 and finding footing as a fairly popular licensed show for amateur theaters.
The real gem, though, was its score. Miranda provided an assist on music and lyrics with Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) and Amanda Green (Hands on a Hardbody), a tantalizing songwriting team on their own merits but understandably bolstered here by Miranda’s singular and signature talent for blending classic musical theater with rap and hip-hop. And in Bring It On, Miranda actually gets to write for the most accurate of demographics: High schoolers.
With no offense to Thomas Jefferson or Abuela Claudia, Miranda’s razor-sharp writing shines especially bright when teens are the ones spitting his freeform arias. High schoolers, particularly those who welcome newcomer Campbell (nascent Mean Girl Taylor Louderman) at her transferred digs, fit right in Miranda’s pocket, and he’s frankly never better than when he can trust in the delivery of insane lyrics like “Twirl your baton if you wanna rond de jambe at your momma’s” and “Y’all think cheerin’ is feminine? Then I’m a feminist swimmin’ in women, gentlemen.”
There are so many delightful morsels of wit and wordplay to honor here (and, to be fair, at least one line about “surfer dudes” worth questioning) but you’ll find much of the show’s best lyrical work in the Act 2 opener “It’s All Happening,” wherein Danielle (Adrienne Warren) lays out her plan to form Jackson’s cheerleading team. The production number offers most of the show’s best lines, but one verse in particular really sums up Miranda’s knack for it all and the reason why Bring It On deserves your brief memory five years later:
WE’LL. GET. VERTICAL. TIL. WE. GET. VERTIGO.
Oh man. The establishment and acceleration of plot! The loyalty to vernacular and character! The indisputable mastery of literary consonance! Hamilton was pretty good, but come on. Gershwin could never!!!