Bring It On: Review Roundup

Taylor Louderman (center)

After a yearlong tour that began at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta, the new musical Bring It On, inspired by the 2000 film written by Jessica Bendinger and its sequels, opened last night on Broadway to reviews that ranged from polite to positive. For the record, the creative team is Jeff Whitty (book), Lin-Manuel Miranda (lyrics, music), Amanda Green (lyrics), Tom Kitt (music, orchestration), Alex Lacamoire (orchestration), Andy Blankenbuehler (direction, choreography), David Korins (sets), Andrea Lauer (costumes) Jason Lyons (lights), Brian Ronan (sound), Jeff Sugg (video), Charles G. LaPointe (hair, wigs), and Dave Pepin (music direction).

The cast includes Taylor Louderman (Campbell), Adrienne Warren (Danielle), Jason Gotay (Randall), Elle McLemore (Eva), Ryann Redmond (Bridget), Ariana DeBose (Nautica), Gregory Haney (La Cienega), Neil Haskell (Steven), Dominique Johnson (Cameron), Janet Krupin (Kylar), Kate Rockwell (Skylar) and Nicolas Womack (Twig).

Dan Bacalzo (Theater Mania): This new tuner features some amazing routines by director/choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler that are likely to have the audience cheering the musical’s vibrant young cast. … Whitty plays around with several film and musical tropes, but recombines them in some surprisingly fresh ways. … The show’s [songs] go back and forth between musical pop sounds and hip-hop rhythms to immediately showcase the differences between Campbell’s two schools. Similarly, Blankenbuehler’s choreographic vocabulary is attuned to the different movement styles of these two student populations. … Ultimately, it’s those numbers – with girls flung high into the air, boys doing amazing flips, and everyone moving to the show’s pulsating and infectious beats – that audiences will most remember.

Joe Dziemianowicz (N.Y. Daily News): The show brings a lot to like: A crew of talented Broadway newbies, a blast of infectious feel-good and, most memorably, dazzling dancing and cheering-squad routines. Indeed, the show nails it whenever it’s in motion. Simply singing, it’s more standard fare. … The book is another story … which shows a keen ear for teen-speak, is topical, toothy and consistently giggle-inducing. … Bring It On doesn’t break new ground, but it kept me smiling. Sometimes pretty silly – and very acrobatic – is enough.

Elysa Gardner (USA Today): 3 of out 4 stars. Librettist Jeff Whitty, a Tony Award winner for Avenue Q, and his equally accomplished collaborators cared enough to craft an original story with new characters, rather than simply rehash the film while making snarky jokes at its expense. … The newly crafted heroine, Campbell, though played with a nice balance of sweetness and spine by Taylor Louderman, is pretty much a stock ingénue, belting out forgettable, pop-flavored songs. … Director/choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, abetted by “cheer consultant” Jessica Colombo, has provided exuberantly acrobatic routines. … In cheerleading, as in all feel-good entertainment, enthusiasm counts for a lot.

Erik Haagensen (Back Stage): Whitty’s generic script is full of predictably sassy one-liners and types rather than characters. It regularly grinds to a halt so that director-choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler can whip out yet another cheerleading routine; these are impressively athletic at first but grow increasingly repetitive as the show progresses. Tony Award-winning composers Tom Kitt and Lin-Manuel Miranda have joined forces on the music, with Amanda Green and Miranda providing the lyrics. It’s a lot of firepower for such a lightweight result, but the songs are never less than pleasant if rather interchangeable. The bright young cast works hard for its money.

Charles Isherwood (N.Y. Times): While it has its moments of memorable wit and some appealing rhythmic Broadway-pop songs, Bring It On … has the feel of a daffy lark embarked upon as a summer-vacation goof. … While the musical is “inspired” by the film, it is by no means a stage facsimile of it. Aside from the title and the cheerleading, the musical is almost wholly original, if you can call original a show that relies so blithely on the familiar formulas (and clichés) of fictional depictions of adolescence. … It’s when the cast members drop the bonding and the mean-girl bitching to take part in Mr. Blankenbuehler’s exciting cheerleading routines, arranging themselves into dazzling human starbursts, that Bring It On really brings something fresh to the ever-expanding roster of shows aimed at the teenage demographic.

Michael Musto (Village Voice): Four Tony winners have collaborated on a show that’s so light it’s almost as if Picasso got to work on an Etch-a-Sketch. … The sets – lockers and beams, plus moving panels with images projected on them – busily try to conceal the lack of a big budget. Director/choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler’s staging throws s-p-i-r-i-t in your face, with lots of people lifting other people at regular intervals. And the plot – complete with an obligatory she-messed-up twist – has draggy stretches, but when the humor clicks, it brings on spoofy amusement. Teenage girls and their moms will probably enjoy this glorified trifle. But it took four Tony winners?

David Rooney (Hollywood Reporter): It should prove a crowdpleaser with the target demographic. Is the show destined for a place in the musical-theater pantheon? Unlikely. But it scores points by reinventing rather than replicating the source material, sampling from a tasty selection of pop-cultural favorites. And the sheer athleticism of the event numbers … provides enough genuine thrills to compensate for the stop-start storytelling. … Director-choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler … packages the material into an affectionate salute to the joys and pains of high school and amps up the electricity where it matters most – in the dance numbers.

Steven Suskin (Variety): The tuner remains airborne often enough to overcome several obstacles along the way, starting with overly familiar plotting and characters. Strong performances from a personable cast, athletically impressive staging and an engaging score combine to make Bring It On a pert and refreshing summer surprise. … The show displays a low pulse through much of the first act, despite several acrobatic displays of cheerleading flips and twirls. Once the heroine switches schools, though, the pace quickens, as does audience interest. Things finally spring to life after 45 minutes or so.

Elizabeth Vincentelli (N.Y. Post): 2-1/2 out of 4 stars. Inspired by the movie, Bring It On is filled with energetic feats of cheerleading, but falls short with a clichéd plot. … No need for a spoiler alert: There will be a reckoning between the two schools at Nationals. By the end, “Omigod, everyone’s gone through all this, like, personal growth.” … Life on the road has gelled the cast, which is likable and very tight. The actors even make most of the time-wasting ponderous songs – and there’s a lot of those in the slow second act – feel semi-bearable. Between them and those gymnastics, Bring It On pulls off a decent landing.

Linda Winer (Newsday): This is a harmless entertainment … but for all the positive messages and appealing contributions from these new-generation pedigrees, the hero of the show must surely be director-choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, who turned theater-trained singers and dancers into confident acrobats and real-life competitive cheerleaders into believable characters. … The clichés come with twists, thanks to the cleverness of the hip creative team. And the twists tumble in on piles of human pyramids.

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