BRING IT ON—THE MUSICAL
By Gary Murray
Starring Taylor Louderman and Adrienne Warren
Libretto by Jeff Whitty
Music by Tom Kitt and Lin-Manuel Miranda
Lyrics by Amanda Green and Lin-Manuel Miranda
Bring it on was a cheerleading film from a few years ago. I remember seeing it but do not remember any details of the film—it has just vanished from the backwash of memory. So, with almost fresh eyes, I ventured into the Music Hall at Fair Park to see Bring it on—The Musical.
The play starts with Campbell (Taylor Louderman). She is captain of the Truman cheerleading squad and is poised to go for nationals. Her second in command is Skylar (Kate Rockwell) and her second is Kylar (Janet Krupin). The three run the tryouts and diss on mascot Bridget (Ryann Redmond). Campbell sees something in the very young Eva (Elle McLemore in a brilliant scene-stealing part).
When our cast is set, Campbell finds that she is to be transferred to Jackson High School. Once there, she finds that Bridget is also part of the redistricting. Campbell learns that Jackson is a very urban school and does not even have a cheerleading team. But they do have a dance squad run by Bridgette (Adrienne Warren).
Not to give away too much plot, Campbell decides that things are not all they seem at Truman High School and that he has been plotted against. Her revenge, start her own cheerleading squad and take down her rivals. The entire exercise of the musical is to get the kids dancing and going those stunning gymnastic moves one sees on the cheerleading competitions on ESPN.
The stage stays mostly barren with single rows of lockers to suggest high school. Most of the set design is done by four giant movable screens that serve such diverse functions as scoreboards, bedrooms and scenery. It is a cleaver way to keep the stage empty so the acrobatics will flow without obstacles.
The part of the work that will make or break Bring it on when it makes it to the Great White Way will be the acrobatics done under the guise of cheerleading. We get two different giant scenes with the Truman squad doing their routine and later the Jackson squad strutting their stuff.
Before the matinee started, it was announced that due to some recent injuries, some of the stage stunts would not be presented. With all the jumps and flips that occurred during the two hours, it is a wonder what more these young and talented performers could perform on stage. Nothing was missing from either the enthusiasm or athleticism of Bring it on.
The two leads of Bring it on are Taylor Louderman and Adrienne Warren. Both are Broadway caliber singers and dancers. Taylor who plays Campbell has the bigger role and the most growth potential role. She is on stage almost the entire performance and never wavers for a moment. Her voice is a swansong, pulling the audience into its mystic tone. Adrienne Warren was just note on perfect giving some much needed gravity and more of her was needed on stage. The few moments the two share together are magical.
Of the secondary characters, Ryann Redmond showed some serious comedic chops. She is the underdog of the work and the audience was rooting for her every step of the way. There was just this sparkle with every turn the actress made, giving it all every moment on the boards.
The big fault of Bring it on is the lack of big musical show stopping numbers. There was not one tune that jumped off the stage and into the audience hearts. None of the songs captured the mind nor had a great hook that catches the ear. If this were to be re-tooled before Broadway, the musical aspects would be the part to work on. The story is cheeky and funny with a very ‘let’s put on a show’ feel. It just needs ‘that song’ and ‘that moment’ to make it work.
All in all, Bring it on—The Musical is a charming winter diversion that should delight audiences–especially young girls. It has some positive messages and is generally pleasing.