The former, present and wannabe cheerleaders of the country are likely rather excited about the emergence of Bring It On! The Musical, the new play by the writers of Avenue Q, Next to Normal and In the Heights about the trials and tribulations of cheerleading. The rest of us are, dare I say, dubious. Allow me to put you at ease: this is a dynamic, fun musical that can be enjoyed even by non-cheerleaders, albeit with some reservations.
Admittedly, it is not a show to be seen for the plot. It’s hampered when it simultaneously lauds and lampoons cheerleading, tripping over its own feet, and by its formulaic, predictable story arc. The music is also somewhat forgettable, so you wouldn’t see it for that either.
The rest of the musical, however, redeems its flaws. The cheerleading is more like Cirque de Soleil style acrobatics than pom-pom waving; the most petite girls are thrown 25-30 feet into the air, flipping and twirling all the while, in what is perhaps the best series of stunts. (For what it’s worth, they’re probably the best “cheerleading” squad in the country, even if they are a decade too old.) The actors are still belting out the songs while all this goes on, which demonstrates impressive power and control.
The brilliance of Avenue Q writer Jeff Whitty shines through frequently, making the parts that aren’t song and dance often fit to go toe-to-toe with The Book of Mormon for comedic value. The show is at its best when Whitty is left free to lampoon narcissism, which is more frequent during the second act, when the protagonist is no longer allied with the more unsavory characters and is less tied in with the cheerleading culture.
While the roles can be somewhat constricting, some of the acting is terrific and most more than passes muster. The actors contain the nature of their characters, be it Skylar’s (Kate Rockwell) arrogance, Campbell’s (Taylor Louderman) timidity or Danielle’s (Adrienne Warren) sassiness, throughout their very marrow. One interesting decision was to create the role of the female character La Cienega to be played by a man in drag (Gregory Haney). Haney’s muscular physique, revealed in several scenes, leaves one in little doubt of his gender, but the part is hilarious and he plays it excellently.
All in all, I’d say it’s worth seeing. If one is a fan of the whole Bring It On! franchise, I can only imagine it would enrich the experience, but the show is enjoyable even without the cult rabidity. Bring It On! is not the deepest play–sometimes it can even feel like eye candy–but it is a unique and inherently fun experience.