|I’m not a fan of surprises… the last thing I was anticipating from my evening at the Ahmanson Theatre, watching Bring it On the Musical, was a surprise. I thought I had it all figured out before I walked in the door. Not because I’d seen the movie. I haven’t, actually, but because of the sheer improbability that an avid Gen X theatregoer could possibly enjoy a musical about competitive cheerleading. Well, I’m a bit startled to report my happy surprise. I may be one of the three fans of the show that is over the age of 18 (not really, but I understand it’s far from critically acclaimed) but I will stand tall in my devotion to the delight that I believe this show is.The story is simple. Cheerleading captain, Campbell (Taylor Louderman) was born to lead her team to the competitive cheerleading national championships. In her senior year, her dreams come crashing as a sad twist of fate (which was actually a sinister play of cheerleading politics, by rival Skylar (Kate Rockwell)) of school rezoning sends Campbell from her High School of over privileged, blond haired, blue eyed cheerleading superstars to the rough-and-tumble school of metal detectors on the wrong side of the tracks. Replacing a cheerleading squad, was an edgy “crew” led by the tough and sassy Danielle (Adrienne Warren). Needless to say, Campbell doesn’t fit in. But she’s committed to doing what it takes (including good and bad choices) to motivate her new comrades to follow her dreams. If this is sounding like an “after school special,” you are right. Nothing new here. It’s frivolous fun with a few (being brutally honest, here) uber stereotypical lessons to learn. You can be sure the quintessential happy ending awaits you.
How then, could I be so delighted with a “nothing new” cookie cutter story from such an incredible set of creators? With libretto by Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q), music by Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights), and lyrics by Amanda Green (High Fidelity) and Mr. Miranda… you would think the show would blow your mind. Is Bring it On the Musical an earth shattering show that skillfully uses competitive cheerleading as its vehicle? No. But does it have to be?
The truth is, I grinned throughout the show. I was thoroughly entertained. I didn’t look at my watch once… and it is not short. It’s the most G rated, family friendly show I’ve seen in ages, and don’t we need more of those? This show should and hopefully will be a commercial success. “After school special” sells, and there’s currently a hole in the market. It will draw a younger audience (it’s the youngest I’ve seen since Spring Awakening or Wicked) and these are the folks that haven’t yet made it a habit to get to the theatre. No matter how savvy or discerning (or shall we say… snobby?) you may be about theatre, you can’t deny the importance of attracting a youthful audience to the art form… or it will cease to exist.
There aren’t any memorable songs to speak of, it shouldn’t win the Tony and I don’t know if I need to see it again. I happen to prefer a more challenging and edgy show myself. But with theatre on the path to extinction… Bring it On the Musical is a necessary and pretty stinkin’ fun step in the right direction… I’m so glad I saw it.
Mark Burnett recently said, “Create something people want.” The creators have achieved this goal for the American masses. There’s incredible energy and talent on display throughout the show. The stunts and acrobatics are something to marvel at and the young, passionate cast never disappoints. Andy Blankenbuehler has directed and choreographed an impressive evening. Get over your pretentious self and have a fun evening before the opportunity passes you by.