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Bring it On: The Musical

a World Premiere
CATEGORY :
by Jeff Whitty, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tom Kitt, and Amanda Green

COMPANY : Alliance Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Woodruff Art Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 3956

SHOWING : January 15, 2011 - February 20, 2011

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

"One of the most exciting Atlanta world premieres in many years...fiercely funny writing...and an explosively original mix of singing, acting, dancing and cheer."- Wendell Brock for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"A dynamic new musical...the cast is ferociously talented."- Phil Kloer, ArtsCriticATL.com


Celebrate the world premiere of a new musical created by a Tony Award®-winning team of Broadway's brightest young creators.

Two squads. Two schools. One mission: claim the title at the National Cheerleading Championships. The high-stakes world of competitive cheerleading meets the cutthroat rivalries of high school politics and romance in this bold and explosive new musical comedy. How do you learn to be true to your team and to yourself? Sometimes it's got to get ugly before it gets pretty. Game on.

The team behind this world premiere is an extraordinarily rare union of Broadway's most acclaimed, award-winning young creators. With an original book by Tony Award® winner Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q), music and lyrics by Tony Award®-winning composer Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights), music by Pulitzer and Tony Award®-winning composer Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) and lyrics by Broadway lyricist Amanda Green (High Fidelity), this wholly original new musical is directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Andy Blankenbuehler (In the Heights).


CAST & CREW LIST
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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Fasten Your Seat Belts
by Dedalus
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
5.0
So, when I first heard of it, I thought WTF? Seven Tony winners, the youngest and freshest creative talents on Broadway, were combining forces to bring a brand new musical to Atlanta. And what has this awesome mind trust chosen as its subject matter? The world of competitive cheerleading as seen in the 2000 yawn-fest “Bring it On” (okay, anything that features two “Buffy” alumni – Eliza Dushku and Clare Kramer – can’t be a total yawn-fest). Formulaic and predictable, it nevertheless spawned a devoted following as well as boatloads of almost identical straight-to-video sequels. My own reaction was “Meh!” Even the much-touted gymnastics come across (at least on the small screen) as more CGI than actual wow-inducing stunts.

I repeat, WTF?

To my surprise, “Bring it On: The Musical” is a total winner, an energetic locomotive of a show that starts strong and keeps building to its final competition. Not to discredit the terribly young (and fit) cast, but the credit for the success of this venture goes to that incredible cadre of behind-the-scenes talent.

Like the original movie’s sequels, the script by Jeff Whitty (“Avenue Q”), creates an original set of characters and puts them into a familiar by-the-numbers formula. Starting off with an “introduce the squad” sequence that turns out to be a dream, the show follows a blonde (it’s always blonde) and plucky heroine (“Campbell”) who becomes squad captain and must lead her crew on to win the National Cheerleading competition. Along the way, there are complications, a rival urban (read “ethnically diverse”) squad, a bad jerk-boyfriend, a good niceguy-boyfriend, rivals becoming BFF’s, and a final competition that teaches everyone important lessons.

Mr. Whitty has some fun with the formula though, skewering the win-at-any-cost personalities of too many of the characters without losing his apparent affection for them, not to mention adding echoes of “All About Eve” to the complications. (Did I say echoes? I meant to say heavy-handed rip-offs – he even named his understudy-with-a-heart-of-stony-ambition “Eva.”) He also has a feel for the angst and life-changing high-drama that is a typical adolescent’s day. I especially like how he includes a “drag cheerleader” in his roster, and makes the “chubby” girl a heroine of equal respect. And I really loved how he turned our expectations during the final competition completely upside-down! Formula? Yes! Predictable? Not on your life!

To its credit, the production uses two teams to create the music and lyrics. The plan was for Tom Kitt (“Next to Normal”) and Amanda Green (“High Fidelity”) to create the songs for the Temple kids (rich and white) and for Lin-Manuel Miranda (“In the Heights”) to do the same for the Jackson kids (poor and diverse). Somewhere along the way (or so production notes tell us), the two teams found they liked working together more than apart, and strict delineations soon evaporated. The result is a distinctive style of music for the two schools that set the stage, but a nice blending of style as loyalties and sympathies get more muddled and ambivalent.

If I may digress a moment, are you as irritated as I am when programs for new musicals do NOT include a song list? I’d love to cite some favorite numbers, but I can’t, since I have no idea what any of them were called. Suffice it to say, the title song (and sentiment) is repeated in more than one number and style, and it seems to work well in all of them. Let me at least credit Director/Choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler (“In the Heights”) and Music Director Alex Lacamoire (also “In the Heights”) for successfully making such a wild goulash of styles and songs seem seamless and part of a coherent whole. I’d love to see this show make it to Broadway, just to have a recording of the music made available.

Now, to discuss the real wow-factor here – the Cheerleader routines. These are just jaw-droppingly spectacular and display an athleticism and precision that are incomprehensible to my flabby old-man mind. Real-life cheerleading competitors have to maintain this level of skill and stamina for a three-minute routine. Here, for two-plus hours a show, many shows per week, the cast goes through many sequences in which pyramids go three levels high with leaps and spins going even higher, all without a net, all without “stunt doubles,” all relying on trust in costars to be there for the catch. I’m presuming there is a high level of risk involved – opening night programs listed two understudy replacements – but this cast dives into it with an enthusiasm and skill that is absolutely breathtaking. And it’s not just the “nameless ensemble” members doing the heavy lifting – stars Amanda Lea LaVergne (“Campbell”) and Kelly Felthouse (“Eva”) take their turns at the top of the pyramids. And they’re all so young – adults appear only as “voice-overs.”

If I have one complaint, it would be the sequence in which heroine Campbell is forced to dance wearing a grotesque leprechaun’s costume (don’t ask). She supposedly “wows” her new friends with her willingness to go out on a limb and move like a member of the “crew.” Unfortunately, the choreography here is too simplistic (step, shake-the-booty, step, shake-the-booty), and I wasn’t sharing the onlookers’ enthusiasm for her “game.” Maybe the costume was just too durn heavy for anything more difficult, but the sequence needs something a bit more. Still, it hardly dimmed my enthusiasm for the show overall.

On the other hand, everything about the design of the show clicked like a precision routine. Dominated by a blue mat, everything had a “gymnasium” feel to it. And, once the action moved to Jackson High School, a series of hall-locker units combined and morphed into hallways, bathrooms, dance platforms, and even school lockers. It was a design that moved the action smoothly and made clever usage of shapes and suggestions. Projections were used liberally, and the whole shebang started with an arena-style clock counting down to zero. In other words, the stage was the world of competitive sports, and the story found its imagery with all the accoutrements thereof.

So, one of the themes of the show (and the series of movies in general) is “finding your WOW!” That is, discovering what it is that you love doing so much that you can’t imagine NOT doing it.

I dare say, anyone wandering into the Alliance Theatre over the next month will find a “WOW” that can’t even be topped by spinning cheerleaders a hundred feet in the air. My own “WOW” is seeing young and talented artists at the top of their game producing work that defies all expectations. So, fasten your seatbelts, it’s gonna be a wild and wow-filled night!

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)





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