Initially, when I heard that Bring It On was the latest movie to be adapted for the Broadway stage, I wasn’t interested. I get a bit tired of the endless attempts to turn successful movies into Broadway musicals. I’d seen the movie (and enjoyed it more than I was expecting to) when it was first released, but it certainly was not a favorite of mine. I was thinking I just might pass this one up when I learned some thing that made me change my mind.
All it took was two words: Jeff Whitty. In case you aren’t aware, Jeff Whitty wrote the book for Avenue Q, my favorite musical, and won the Tony for it. I also learned about some of the important contributions he made to the story of Avenue Q. I figured that if he was writing the book for Bring It On, it would probably be clever and worth checking out.
A little more research revealed that the music was co-written by Tom Kitt and the lyrics by Amanda Green. They were the team behind the High Fidelity musical. I know High Fidelity was not successful on Broadway, but I caught a local production of it and thought it was great. Maybe it worked best in a small intimate theatre. Tom Kitt also won a Tony for his work on Next to Normal. The final co-writer was Lin-Manuel Miranda, who won a Tony for In the Heights.
Knowing that there was all this talent behind the scenes, I decided to go ahead a purchase a ticket. I was not disappointed. The story does not follow the plot of the movie at all. Kirsten Dunst’s Torrance is nowhere to be found. Instead, the main character is Campbell, who at the start of the play has it all. She’s happy in her life with her boyfriend (who is also a cheerleader) and her duties as captain of the cheerleading squad. Tryouts are held to determine the squad and the final member is Eva, an inexperienced sophomore. Campbell helps her through cheer camp, preventing her from quitting by telling her that she is the sophomore spirit leader, and therefore third in line to be captain of the squad.
It’s at this point that Campbell’s world falls apart. She learns that she has been redistricted from Truman High to Jackson, which appears to be a much more ethnically diverse school with kids from a lower socioeconomic background. And, horror of horrors, the school doesn’t even have a cheerleading squad.
Campbell has trouble fitting in, but a fellow redistrictee, Bridget, who is overweight and was always the mascot, never a member of the squad at Truman, suddenly becomes more popular. It is largely thanks to the acceptance of Bridget that Campbell gets to know Danielle and her dance crew.
Campbell becomes a member of the crew and is adjusting to life at her new school (and flirting with a new guy) when she learns that due to a chain of suspicious events, Eva has taken her place as captain of the Truman squad, even looking like Campbell and involved with her former boyfriend. At this point, Campbell convinces the crew to become a squad (and tells some lies in the process), so that she can compete against Eva.
Overall, I found the musical to be very enjoyable, if not always realistic. I’m not quite sure how Jackson got to be so accepting of students who are different, including Bridget and La Cienega, a transvestite. The speed at which the Jackson squad becomes a great squad is a bit unbelievable too, but I’m willing to suspend reality in a musical.The ending, however, does manage to be uplifting without completely losing touch with reality. These teens also seem to live in a world devoid of adults; every character is a high schooler.
The characters from Truman could be more fleshed out. Campbell’s fellow cheerleaders a basically a bitch and an airhead, although they do get to be very funny. The characters at Jackson get a bit more development, especially Bridget and Danielle.
I found the second act more engaging than the first, but the play always carried me along with its witty humor and catchy songs. Speaking of the music, the songs were all enjoyable, but there were very few standouts for me. Most of the songs serve the plot, so they’re not really stand alone numbers. The best songs were in the second act: Bridget’s memorable “It Ain’t No Thing,” the inspirational “Might as Well Enjoy the Trip,” and Jackson’s performance at nationals “Cross the Line.” The play makes good use of cheerleading stunts in the dance numbers, and a few throws even elicited gasps from the audience.
Overall, I’d say Bring It On is a fun trip to theatre. It’s not a great musical, but you’ll have a good time and you don’t have to be a cheerleader to get caught up in the energy of the show. It’s not profound, but you’ll leave happy. To find out where to see Bring It On, click here to visit the official website.