Unlike many movies-made-plays gracing our stages lately, "Bring It On" chooses to adopt the commercial film title without lazily adapting the same plot. Instead, a new story is spun about an overeager high school senior who's spent her "whole life" waiting to take her cheerleading team to nationals. At our viewing, the energetic audience skewed younger than the norm; beside us, a teenager spent two hours literally on the edge of her seat. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, but weren't as quite as wowed; however, we can see the musical having a long life playing to this crowd.
Taylor Louderman is sensational as cheerleading captain Campbell. Not only can she carry off a genuine performance that could easily go 2-D, she also has a set of pipes that seems unfazed by the fact that this star spends time dancing and, of course, cheerleading. Ryann Redmond wins the spirit award for earning both empathy and laughs as the requisite dorky misfit. Though other leads don't do much tumbling (the ensemble is stuffed with no-name gymnasts to carry that load), their talent is also apparent. And kudos for a diverse cast all around, despite a strange idea of what passes for "street" these days. We only wish they'd been given meatier conflict and didn't do some of their best work via Skype (the show nods to "modern" technology like texting and Google).
Truly, the shortcomings are the predictable plot and forgettable music. The work may have gotten murky thanks to a mash-up of three musician/lyricists. Notably, Lin-Manuel Miranda ("In the Heights") is up to his usual tricks. He's still a breath of fresh air on Broadway – but as with our "Bring It On" heroine, we can't wait for him to mature and figure out his next move. Maybe we'll just wait for the sequel?
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If you go
‘Bring It On: The Musical’
Through Jan. 20, 2013
St. James Theatre
246 W. 44th Street