Brrr. It’s cold in here…
Well, that is partly due to it being Denver in winter, but also the cast of Bring It On: The Musical has rolled into our atmosphere. However, while a lot of people may recognize that infamous cheer from the guilty pleasure flick Bring It On starring Kirsten Dunst, audiences need to be aware that this is not a mere adaptation of the original film. No – unlike other movie-turned-musicals ala Legally Blonde or Shrek, the creative team behind Bring It On: The Musical used the film franchise about high school cheerleading as an inspiration for what is rightfully billed as an original comedy – full of peppy tunes with impressive lyrics, breakthrough talent, stunning choreography, and roof-raising acrobatics.
Bring It On: The Musical Captures the Spirit of the Movie
HE SAID: “We came here to speak our peace and get the crowd fired up.” That line from one of the final scenes in the show really sums up the whole point of Bring It On: The Musical. It wasn’t meant to be an adaptation of the film (much to the surprise of a number of audience members). Nor is it meant to be the next Pulitzer Prize winning musical. All the writers intended to do was tell a story that has the best elements of the film franchise and get us all amped up in the process. In my opinion, they nailed exactly what they set out to do. Was I ever deeply moved by what was happening on stage? Not deeply, but there were a few moving moments. But, I left the theatre with my pulse pounding, energized from what I just witnessed, and a pep in my step.
SHE SAID: I should say I was glad I was warned (by HIM) to not expect the plot of Bring it On: The Musical to parallel the first movie. After that, I was open to taking in a cheer-tastic musical that has some similar characteristics to the movie, but also has new qualities that are all its own. I had expectations of being entertained, and those were ABSOLUTELY met. What I wasn’t expecting was for the show to break new ground in a few ways. First of all, the choreography by director Andy Blankenbuehler was incredibly impressive. This new blend of tumbling, stunts, and choreography with more musical-theater style music was incredibly engaging. Not to mention the impressive feat of casting performers with such unique skill sets — belting your face off while balancing on top of a pyramid is on few actors’ resumes, and so it’s really exciting to see that combination for the first time.
New Music is Modern, Fresh, Light
HE SAID: The creative team behind this show is a dream team of writers from some of the freshest musicals to hit Broadway in the last decade – and that energy and creativity is evident in every moment of the show. Some of the lyrics (like the performer belting out “Beyotch”) are going to be hit and miss for some, but most of them are not surprisingly very impressive – especially the rhyme schemes as you get into the thick of some of the rap verses. The overall songs as well are going to be hit and miss. There are several songs that are a bit light, but I have had quite a few stuck in my head since we saw it.
SHE SAID: I was actually pretty consistently impressed with the lyrics. There were a few cheesy rhymes in there, but almost all of the songs had a very fresh feel to them — Lin-Manuel Miranda brings his incredibly modern sensibility to the piece, but with confidence, so you never doubt for a second that the songs also belong in a musical. In addition to some awesome rhymes and pleasing, unique rhythms, it opens the door for really impressive hip hop choreography that is still rare on musical theater stages. I only wished that some of the content of the songs broke out of the specific situation — a pleasant ballad in the second act, for example, focuses on everything being better after high school. I thought that it was a missed opportunity to write a ballad about everything getting better with time, or something having a similar message but isn’t so bounded by the specific situation.
Performers Bring Multiple Talents to the Stage
HE SAID: The two female leads of the show – Taylor Louderman as Campbell and Adrienne Warren as Danielle – bring a presence to the stage that makes it clear how these two characters would lead their crew/squad. I loved Warren’s sultry, booming voice and while Louderman is a bit more innocent, but when she gets going in her songs, there is nothing timid about her vocals. Her high notes rose above the top of the pyramid. But while the plot of the show might rest on their shoulders, the spotlight was stolen in several moments by Ryann Redmond as Bridgett and Gregory Haney as La Cienaga – who both brought unexpected powerhouse vocals and hilarious comedic performances.
SHE SAID: As I mentioned above, the performers are impressively trained in multiple art forms – cheer, tumbling, hip-hop, singing. I loved Louderman’s genuinely peppy energy as Campbell. Elle McLemore as Eva had me in love with her innocent spirit in the first act, but I didn’t quite buy her character as more dimensions of her personality came out. She somehow wasn’t able to overcome her physicality and convince me of her other side. But ultimately, the entire cast was able to tell the story — which may not change your life, but will certainly change your evening for the better.
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Bring Yourself to Bring it On
THEY SAID: As we’ve mentioned a couple of times, before you go see this show you need to understand that it is not an adaptation of the original Bring It On movie – nor was it ever meant to be. The writers explicitly avoided doing a live action version of that exact story. Instead, what they did was take the spirit of the brand and write their own take. The creative team behind the scenes is top notch – loaded with Tony winners – and their expertise and talent is on full display in the music, lyrics, dancing, everywhere. On stage, the performers are impeccable. The amount of physical prowess needed to pull of this show is stunning and the cast really works as a brilliantly cohesive group – a squad if you will. Simply put: Bring It On: The Musical is one of the most exhilarating experiences at the theatre possible. If you are a looking for a fantastically entertaining, action-packed show — this is your stop.
For more information on Bring it On: The Musical, see the tour website. Bring it On plays through Jan 21 at the Buell Theatre in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Click the banner above for tickets and more information.