Friday, August 10, 2012

Theater Review: Bring It On

The cast of Bring it On. Photo: Joan Marcus
High-flying, Spirit-filled Fun, Teen Angst Bring Cheers -- and Lots of Young People to the Theater
By Lauren Yarger
Give me a G, give me an R, give me an E, give me an A, give me a T. What does it spell? Great. and if you add "fun" after it, you have the description for Bring It On, the Broadway musical that has audiences, with lots and lots of young people in them, cheering.

Based on a series of movies (direct to DVD) about rival cheerleading squads, this musical version has a peppy score from Pulitzer Prize winner Tom Kitt (Next toNormal) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights) that propels tumbling, pyramids and flying cheerleading routines (Andy Blankenbuehler directs and choreographs). Miranda and Amanda Green write the very clever lyrics and Jeff Whitty pens the book which differs quite a bit from the movies (credited as a libretto).

Campbell (Taylor Louderman) has all her dreams come true when she is selected cheerleading captain at Truman High. She intends to lead her squad which includes most-popular-girl Skylar (Kate Rockwell), Kylar (Janet Krupin), newbie Eva (Elle McLemore) and boyfriend Steven (Neil Haskell) to the national championship. The pyramid collapses, however, when a school redistricting sends her and geeky school mascott Bridget (a very funny Ryann Redmond) to the very different world of inner-city Jaskson High.

There, Danielle (an impressively belting Adrienne Warren) and her hiphop dance crew of plain speaking Nautica (Ariana DeBose) and crossdresser La Cienega (Gregory Haney) rule the scene. Down-to-earth Bridget quickly fits in and attracts the romantic interests of Twig (Nicolas Womack). Campbell has to come down off her pedestal a bit before finding friendship with Danielle. She convinces them to morph into a cheerleading squad to compete against Truman, now led by Eva, who might just have put in motion a devious plan to take the captaincy and everything that once belonged to Campbell, including Steven and their love song about happy kitties and sleepy pupppies (this silly tune made me laugh every time.)

The creatives put the right formation to work here -- don't take anything seriously. There is humor, a decent book and Kitt and Miranda's music (you can hear the variation between pop and hiphop). The score doesn't achieve the level of their previous works, and some numbers seem penned merely to give the performer a reason to belt, but they are catchy and fun, or moving. The sparse set (David Korins, design) enhanced by video projections (Jeff Sugg, design) brings on key elements to set up a location, then rolls them away to leave room for the cheerleading routines performed an ensemble of 25, including some of the nation’s most skilled competitive cheerleaders with more than 25 national and 50 team titles in gymnastics and cheerleading. Andrea Lauer completes the look with costume design for the squads and high school kids.

You can't help but smile through most of the show -- especially when you look around and see all of the really young people in the audience who cheer and gasp with pleasure and surprise.

Bring It On has been extended through Jan. 20 at the St. James Theatre, 246 West 44th St., NYC. For tickets and information, visit http://www.bringitonmusical.com/.

Christians might like to know:
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Language
-- Crossdressing (An additional note here. The character is simply portrayed as a guy who is most comfortable dressing as a woman without a lot of emphasis on the sexual reasons involved.)
The cast, Photo: Joan Marcus

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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