Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bring It On @ St. James Theatre

Elle Woods had law school and Lysistrata Jones had basketball, but the gang currently at the St. James theatre has … cheerleading! That is right, the hit films in the Bring It On franchise have been retooled, reworked, and re-mastered by some of Broadway’s finest to create the next cheese ball comedy that is hard to resist! This quirky cast of characters cheers and flips their way into the hearts of the audience! Is Bring It On: The Musical the next “best” musical? No. But, is it fun, full of energy, extremely witty, and well worth the price of admission? Hell to the yes! This Broadway underdog is pure fun!
Forget everything you know about the Bring It On film series because this musical is completely different … except for the cheerleading, of course.  Meet Campbell, a senior high school student who has recently been given the coveted position of cheer captain.  Everything is going her way – she is popular, has a hot boyfriend, and is leading the squad to victory. Before she has time to blink, however, her dreams are crushed when she is suddenly relocated to a different school; and, not just any school – it is Jackson High! Enter Danielle – the “it girl” at the rough and tough Jackson (where everything is reversed).  Soon, it becomes clear that these two girls from completely different worlds will have to join forces and become friends.  Through all of the backstabbing, laughs, lies, love, and flips, Campbell and Danielle will soon learn just what it takes to get through the dreaded high school years.
This crazy talented ensemble is forced to go where no ensemble has gone before – they not only sing, act, and dance, they have to lift, flip, and fly through the air.  Leading this ensemble are Taylor Louderman (Muny’s Legally Blonde) and Adrienne Warren (Apollo/U.S. Dreamgirls tour) as Campbell and Danielle respectively.  These two women work wonders together on stage with their strong dance moves, sweet voices, and killer comedic chops.  Louderman takes center stage from the beginning to the end doing a lovely job of separating Campbell, a popular blonde, from all of the other popular blondes surrounding her.  Warren gives rough and tough Danielle tons of heart – making her the character that the entire audience can relate to.  Surrounding these two are a series of strong female performances from Kate Rockwell (Hair) and Janet Krupin (’s The Click Clique) as the popular girls that everyone loves to hate to Elle McLemore (television’s The Middle) as the newcomer to the squad with that “killer instinct” to Ryann Redmond (Playwright Horizon’s Children of Eden) as Bridget, the girl who might be a bit over-weight, but still knows her way around a dance floor.  Believe it or not, there are males in Bring It On: The Musical too.  Jason Gotay () takes on the role of Randall, Campbell’s extremely attractive mentor.  While Gotay is sweet, his performance falls a bit flat, allowing the rest of the ensemble to wash him out – a quality not too good for a leading man.  However, Gregory Haney (Memphis) and Neil Haskell (9 to 5: The Musical) have plenty of time to take some of the spotlight away from the girls.  Haney leaves a lasting impression as La Cienega, the cross-dressing dance crew diva; he is smarty, funny, and absolutely perfect for this break out role.  Haskell takes on Campbell’s hunky boy toy Steven; he is hilarious and is given the chance to show off all of his So You Think You Can Dance moves.  As a whole, this ensemble gels very well together, and knows just how to deliver the material handed to them by some of Broadway’s best and brightest.
What does Avenue Q, Next to Normal, and In the Heights all have in common?  Well, all three have Tony Awards, and now they all have each other.  Director and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler (choreographer of the upcoming Annie) brings together a top-notch creative team to ensure that what many were speculating to be a flop, is in fact a sure fire hit!  A show like this needed both an “all-American Broadway” feel and a “hip-hop” beat; therefore, Blankenbuehler enlisted not one or two musical geniuses, but three: Tom Kitt (Next to Normal), Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights), and Amanda Green (High Fidelity).  Together, these three come together to create a diverse score that is refreshing, up beat, and just plain old fun!  Don’t get to crazy; of course, some of the songs are weak-ish and could use some improvement; however, overall, the score is a crowd pleaser.  Adding to the fun is libretto writer Jeff Whitty of Avenue Q fame.  Whitty’s work is … well … witty.  It is extremely funny, but the whole time is leading up to a moral that all can relate to.  Blankenbuehler does not hold back on his design team either enlisting the help of scenic designer David Korins (the recent Godspell revival), costume designer Andrea Lauer (American Idiot), and lighting designer Jason Lyons (Rock of Ages).  All three work extremely well together to bring the feel of both stage and arena together into one.  Much like the score, this design is a beautiful fusion.  Blankenbuehler does a lovely job of staging this new musical and giving it the high-powered dance and cheer moves that it needs!
Bring It On: The Musical will probably never sweep the Tony Awards; however, it does something that few musicals are doing these days – giving the audience permission to forget about their lives and just have some plain old fun at the theatre!  The ensemble is full of energy, the score and libretto are swell, and the design is fantastic – making this a wonderful new musical that the entire family can enjoy! Bring the kids, bring the wife, bring the husband, and (most importantly) bring it on!

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