In the New York rehearsal room for the new touring production of the musical “Bring It On,” there are signs with arrows, helpfully labeled. One points the way to downstage, the other points up.
That’s because a good portion of the cast for the musical — which features music by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Tom Kitt, lyrics by Amanda Green and a book by Jeff Whitty — is made up of competitive cheerleaders who’ve never been on stage before. That’s one of several reasons why the producers of “Bring It On,” Fox Theatricals, opted to take the show out on the road this season, rather than move from their tryout at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta directly to Broadway.
“One-third of our cast are competitive cheerleaders,” says producer Kristin Caskey of Fox Theatricals. “They come from a real athletic team mentality. We wanted to be able to get everything worked out.”
And athletes are used to road games.
This strategy of building a tour rather than heading to Broadway has other advantages. “Shows that gain some awareness in the national consciousness tend to be the ones that gain momentum,” says Fox’s Mike Isaacson.
It makes sense here to build the brand, since the epicenter of competitive cheerleading is not the Upper East Side of New York.
“Bring It On,” which has a full routing this season, is produced in cooperation with Varsity Brands, which created the National High School Cheerleading Championship in 1980, and owns or partners with most of the major competitive cheerleading events. That partly explains why presenters have been happy to book the show, which comes with a built-in audience, even though there’s no Broadway pedigree. After the tour, says Isaacson, “we’re keeping all options open.”
Fox also has another of the non-Broadway tour offerings this season, the circus show “Traces.” This well-reviewed Off Broadway product by the Montreal-based collective 7 Fingers is also hoping to show up on some Broadway road seasons.
“We’re really flowing the trail blazed by ‘Stomp,’ ” Isaacson says.
Attention is also being paid to another not-for-Broadway product, directed by John Rando: a seasonal tour of a musical version of “A Christmas Story,” the iconic 1983 holiday movie known for the lovable Indiana kid with a penchant for licking frozen flagpoles. Peter Billingsley, who played Ralphie in the movie, is one of the producers of the Chicago-based project. His fellow producer Gerald Goehring said “A Christmas Story: The Musical” will have 27 actors and 16 musicians and play four markets, including Detroit, before concluding at the Chicago Theater in December. The show features a score by newcomers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and a book by Joseph Robinette.
According to Goehring, Ralphie’s budget will be about $5 million, satanic Santa included.
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