A new musical from the creators of Avenue Q, In the Heights, Next to Normal and other hit shows just opened in LA and it is a smash-mouth cheerleading sensation, with dazzling choreography, standout performances and even a couple of provocative ideas to chew on. What more could you want from a musical?
Set in two high schools -- one suburban white and the other inner-city minority -- the story highlights the travails of Truman High cheerleader Campbell (Taylor Louderman), who is about to fulfill her lifelong ambition to become captain of the cheerleading squad when she is abruptly transferred to inner-city Jackson High, which doesn't even have cheerleaders. She is at first ostrasized at the new school, but is soon accepted by the school's "queen bee" Danielle (Adrienne Warren), with the help of her sidekick Bridget (Ryann Redmond). With lots of practice and determination, Campbell and Danielle forge the motley Jackson crew into formidable competitors who go up against Truman High in the nationals.
While the story may be a familiar high school tale, the originality behind the script, music and lyrics, not to mention the choreography and production values, makes this musical a standout. Librettist Jeff Whitty, who wrote the book for Avenue Q finds just the right tone for the high school culture clash, carefully treading the line between the campy and the cool. The piece also has some surprisingly serious resonances, including the continuing racial and cultural divide in America, and the changing nature of the American Dream, which in this version morphs from finishing on top to enjoying the game. In the America of Bring It On, nice guys finish first.
There are some terrific performances here, from Louderman and Warren in the lead to wonderful comedy turns by Redmond, Gregory Haney as the tart LaCienega, Kate Rockwell as the bitchy blonde and Elle McLemore as the evil Alpha girl. Whitty's funny dialogue, the upbeat music by Tom Kitt and Lin-Manuel Miranda and punchy lyrics by Amanda Green and Miranda are engaging and energetic. Choreography and direction by Andy Blankenbuehler are excellent, mixing elements of traditional cheerleading and dance with hip-hop steps. It's a fun and memorable show that deserves to be a hit.