Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bring It On, The Musical **

(Please click on the title to see the full review.)
After last year's unsuccessful move uptown by Lysistrata Jones [reviewed 12/3/11], the last thing I expected to see on a Broadway stage this summer was another cheerleader musical. And yet here is Bring It On, "inspired by" the immensely popular five-movie series of the same name, now in previews at the St. James Theatre. Its impressive creative roster includes composers Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights), librettist Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q) and director/choreographer Andy Blankenbuehhler (In the Heights). While the hard-working cast of 35 is performing high-flying cheerleading stunts and lively dance numbers, it is great fun. The book is only fitfully entertaining and doesn't really spring fully to life until the captain of the lily-white Truman High cheerleading squad is forced to transfer to the inner-city Jackson High. The characters are little more than stereotypes -- the dumb blonde, the chubby but spunky girl, the teen-aged Eve Harrington, the tough-tender girl, the comic rapper, the sensitive boy, and even the black drag queen. The music is often engaging, but the lyrics were not always intelligible. The show would benefit from some judicious trimming: 2 hours, 25 minutes (including intermission) is too long to sustain its momentum. The simple set by David Korins makes heavy use of video projections (excellent ones by Jeff Sugg) on four large moving panels. Andrea Lauer's costumes are delightful. Lighting designer Jason Lyons is guilty of the cardinal sin of shining bright lights in the eyes of the audience not once but twice. Judging from the reaction on the night I attended, the show is critic-proof. Wild cheering began even before the show started. The audience stayed on their feet even after the standing ovation to watch projected photos of the cast in rehearsal. The crowd was slighter older than at Newsies and even more enthusiastic. If you are looking for uncomplicated summer entertainment, you could do far worse than to catch this limited run.

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