×

Bring It On: The Musical

With a story drawn not from the 2000 film starring Kirsten Dunst, but rather from one of its four direct-to-video sequels, the tuner remains airborne often enough to overcome several obstacles along the way, starting with overly familiar plotting and characters.

With:
Campbell - Taylor Louderman
Skylar - Kate Rockwell
Bridget - Ryann Redmond
Steven - Neil Haskell
Eva - Elle McLemore
Twig - Nicolas Womack
Randall - Jason Gotay
Nautica - Ariana DeBose
La Cienega - Gregory Haney
Danielle - Adrienne Warren

Neither roses nor brickbats are likely to be thrown at “Bring It On,” the new musical at the St. James, but you’ll see plenty of cheerleaders tossed up high. With a story drawn not from the 2000 film starring Kirsten Dunst, but rather from one of its four direct-to-video sequels, the tuner remains airborne often enough to overcome several obstacles along the way, starting with overly familiar plotting and characters. Strong performances from a personable cast, athletically impressive staging and an engaging score combine to make “Bring It On” a pert and refreshing summer surprise.

The story tells of squeaky-white cheerleader Campbell (Taylor Louderman) taking over as captain of the championship squad at Truman High, only to find herself inexplicably redistricted to underachieving, ghettoish Jackson High. She determines to form her ragtag and disinterested new classmates into a squad that will defeat her fair-weather Truman friends at the national cheerleading competition — all of this accompanied by enough jokes to float a kids’ sitcom, in a book penned by “Avenue Q” scribe Jeff Whitty.

The show displays a low pulse through much of the first act, despite several acrobatic displays of cheerleading flips and twirls. Once the heroine switches schools, though, the pace quickens, as does audience interest. Things finally spring to life after 45 minutes or so, with a hip-hop number (“Friday Night Jackson”) featuring the heroine in a cheesy-but-funny Leprechaun suit. From then on, entertainment value stays high.

Fresh-faced Louderman makes an impressive Broadway debut as the spunky Campbell, sharing top billing with four other first-timers, who all earn their spurs. Adrienne Warren takes singing honors as the leader of the Jackson girls; Jason Gotay makes a likable, non-aggressive hero; and Elle McLemore, as an Eve Harrington type named Eva, almost steals the show when she turns comically vicious in the second act. Providing ballast for all the smiling faces and toned bodies is Ryann Redmond as Bridget, an overweight Truman outcast who manages to turn the tables at Jackson and even gets a guy.

The score comes from the intriguing combo of composer-lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda (“In the Heights”), composer Tom Kitt (“Next to Normal”) and lyricist Amanda Green (“High Fidelity”). The early songs are perfunctory, but the tunes improve with the leprechaun number. In the second act, the songs — which include a good trio led by Redmond, “It Ain’t No Thing”; a lovely, guitar-heavy duet for romantic leads Louderman and Gotay, “Enjoy the Trip”; and a comedy turn for villainess McLemore, “Killer Instinct” — become more germane to the plot.

Fans of the composers will identify much, though not all, of their individual work; a breakdown of the songs shows seven three-way collaborations, four solely by Miranda, and eight, including the three cited above, by Kitt/Green. Miranda and Kitt are justly celebrated, but the lesser-known Green deserves further exposure, catching the ear, for instance, with lyrics pairing Genghis Kahn with Bristol Palin.

Director-choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler (“In the Heights”) keeps things energetic and lively while maneuvering the high-flying cast safely around the intrusive videoscreens that, in this touring show, are forced to serve as scenery. The cheerleading leaps and pyramids are impressive, yes, but there are too many too soon; they begin to look too easy. The stunts in the final number from the Jackson Squad are notably different than the rest, and thus more effective.

“Bring It On” — which preemed at Atlanta’s Alliance in January 2011 and regrouped in November in Los Angeles at the start of a 13-city jaunt — is on Broadway for a 12-week stint. With tourists, kids out of school, and five tuners soon to close, these spunky cheerleaders might find cheerful news at the St. James.

Bring It On: The Musical

St. James; 1,333 seats; $125 top

Production: A Universal Pictures Stage Prods./Glenn Ross, Beacon Communications/Armyan Bernstein and Charlie Lyons, and Kristin Caskey and Mike Isaacson presentation of a musical in two acts with book by Jeff Whitty, music by Tom Kitt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, lyrics by Amanda Green and Miranda (inspired by the motion picture written by Jessica Bendinger). Directed, choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler. Music direction, Dave Pepin.

Creative: Sets, David Korins; costumes, Andrea Lauer; lighting, Jason Lyons; sound, Brian Ronan; video, Jeff Sugg; arrangements, orchestrations, Alex Lacamoire and Kitt; music supervision, dance arrangements, Lacamoire; production stage manager, Bonnie Panson. Opened Aug. 1, 2012; reviewed July 30. Runs through Oct. 7. Running time: 2 HOURS, 15 MIN.

Cast: Campbell - Taylor Louderman
Skylar - Kate Rockwell
Bridget - Ryann Redmond
Steven - Neil Haskell
Eva - Elle McLemore
Twig - Nicolas Womack
Randall - Jason Gotay
Nautica - Ariana DeBose
La Cienega - Gregory Haney
Danielle - Adrienne WarrenWith: Calli Alden, Antwan Bethea, Nikki Bohne, Dexter Carr, Courtney Corbeille, Brooklyn Alexis Freitag, Shonica Gooden, Haley Hannah, Dominique Johnson, Janet Krupin, Melody Mills, Michael Mindlin, Michael Naone-Carter, David Ranck, Bettis Richardson, Sheldon Tucker, Lauren Whitt.

More Legit

  • Because of Winn Dixie review

    Regional Theater Review: 'Because of Winn Dixie,' the Musical

    Watching the musical “Because of Winn Dixie” at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam, Conn., it’s hard not to think of another show that premiered in the same regional theater 43 years ago. It, too, featured a scruffy stray dog, a lonely-but-enterprising young girl and a closed-off daddy who finally opens up. But “Winn Dixie,” based [...]

  • MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOW MOSCOWby

    Off Broadway Review: 'Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow'

    There’s something about Anton Chekhov’s whiny sisters that invites comic sendups of “Three Sisters” like the one Halley Feiffer wrote on commission for the Williamstown Theater Festival. Transferred to MCC Theater’s new Off Broadway space and playing in the round in a black box with limited seating capacity, the crafty show feels intimate and familiar. [...]

  • the way she spoke review

    Off Broadway Review: 'The Way She Spoke' With Kate del Castillo

    Since the 1990s, scores of women in Juarez, Mexico have been mutilated, raped, and murdered at such a rate that some have called it an epidemic of femicide—killing women and girls solely because they are women. Isaac Gomez’s play “the way she spoke,” produced Off Broadway by Audible and starring Kate del Castillo, confronts the [...]

  • HBO's 'SUCCESSION

    Brian Cox Playing LBJ in Broadway Run of 'The Great Society'

    Brian Cox will play President Lyndon Johnson in the Broadway run of “The Great Society,” playwright Robert Schenkkan’s follow-up to “All the Way.” The role of Johnson, a crude, but visionary politician who used the office of the presidency to pass landmark civil rights legislation and social programs, was originally played by Bryan Cranston in [...]

  • Paul McCartney Has Penned Score for

    Paul McCartney Has Been Secretly Writing an 'It's a Wonderful Life' Musical

    The pop superstar who once released a movie and album called “Give My Regards to Broad Street” really does have designs on Broadway, after all. It was revealed Wednesday that Paul McCartney has already written a song score for a stage musical adaptation of the 1946 Frank Capra film classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The [...]

  • The Night of the Iguana review

    West End Review: 'The Night of the Iguana' With Clive Owen

    If Tennessee Williams is the poet laureate of lost souls, none of his characters as are off-grid as the restless travelers trying to make it through his little-seen 1961 play, “The Night of the Iguana.” Holed up in a remote Mexican homestay, its ragtag itinerants live hand-to-mouth, day by day, as they seek refuge from [...]

  • Moulin Rouge Broadway

    Listen: The Special Sauce in Broadway's 'Moulin Rouge!'

    There are songs in the new Broadway version of “Moulin Rouge!” that weren’t in Baz Luhrmann’s hit movie — but you probably know them anyway. They’re popular tunes by superstars like Beyoncé, Adele and Rihanna, released after the 2001 movie came out, and they’ll probably unleash a flood of memories and associations in every audience [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content