Bring It On: The Musical, currently playing at the Durham Performing Arts Center, takes its title but very little else from the 2000 teenage comedy Bring It On. In fact, the main plot line of Bring It On: The Musical has more in common with film director and screenwriter Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s backstage drama All About Eve (1950), in which an ingénue named Eve (played by Anne Baxter) worms her way into the affections of an Broadway star named Margo (portrayed by Bette Davis), only to turn out to be the snake in that particular Garden of Eden.
In Bring It On: The Musical, a ruthlessly ambitious gymnast named Eva (played by Elle McLemore) tries out for the championship-caliber cheerleading squad at a suburban high school for students from well-to-do families, gets a place on the team thanks to the intervention of a sympathetic head cheerleader named Campbell (Taylor Louderman), and then proceeds to give Campbell the All-About-Eve treatment, secretly undermining her at every turn.
Soon, Campbell and the husky team mascot Bridget (Ryann Redmond) find themselves redistricted to an inner-city high school for students from the poorest area of the city. Their new school has no cheerleading squad, but it does have a flamboyant hip-hop dance crew, headed by the haughty Danielle — played on Tuesday night by Ariana DeBose, subbing for Adrienne Warren — and including Danielle’s pals Nautica (Shonica Gooden) and the cross-dressing La Cienega (Gregory Haney).
Roly-poly Bridget, whom the in-crowd at her old school relegated to wearing a parrot suit as team mascot, not only finds her new school a bitter fit; but she quickly attracts the attention of a masculine admirer called Twig (Nick Womack), who keeps asking her out — until she finally says yes.
Meanwhile, Campbell catches the eye of the musically gifted Randall (Jason Gotay), and earns the grudging respect of Danielle and cohorts, whom — by hook and by crook — she convinces to form a cheerleading squad to compete in regional and national competition. So, the stage is set for the big showdown with her former high school.
Sparks fly as Taylor Louderman and Ariana DeBose butt heads as Campbell and Danielle, Elle McLemore is wickedly funny as the two-faced Eva, Ryann Redmond and Gregory Haney prove to be crowd favorites as the awkward Bridget and the snazzy La Cienega, and Jason Gotay and Nick Womack hold their own as Randall and Twig. But Nikki Bohne (subbing for Kate Rockwell) is a scene-stealer as the ultra-snarky Skylar, Janet Krupin is good as Skylar’s friend and imitator Kylar, and Neil Haskell is a likable lout as Campbell’s former boyfriend Steven.
The musical staging of Tony Award®-winning director and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler is full of snap, crackle, and pop; set designer David Korins, video designer Jeff Sugg, lighting designer Jason Lyons, costume designer Andrea Lauer, sound designer Brian Ronan, and hair designer Charles G. LaPointecombine to give this touring show superior production values.
The musical comedy is cute, and the high-flying cheerleading routines draw oos and ahs. So, there is much to commend in Bring It On: The Musical, which may eventually land its behind-the-scenes look at the world of competitive cheerleading on a Broadway stage.
SECOND OPINION: April 19th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Glenn McDonald: http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/04/19/2009530/bring-it-on-brings-good-cheers.html; April 12th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/view/full_story/18215031/article-Choreographing-‘Bring-It-On’? and April 18th review by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/view/full_story/18275833/article-REVIEW—Bring-It-On–High-school–with-humor-and-dance?, respectively (Note 1: You must register first to read this article); and April 14th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Perry Tannenbaum: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=5482. (Note 2: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the April 16th Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2012/04/bring-it-on-the-musical-is-a-behind-the-scenes-look-at-the-world-of-competitive-cheerleading/.)
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents BRING IT ON: THE MUSICAL at 1 and 6:30 p.m. April 22 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701.
TICKETS: $37.50-$74.25 (including fees).
Ticketmaster: 800/745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1624738/.
PARKING: http://www.dpacnc.com/plan_your_visit/parking_guide. OTHER LINKS:
The Musical: http://www.bringitonmusical.com/ (official website), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bring_It_On_(film)#Stage_musical (Wikipedia).
The Film: http://www.universalstudiosentertainment.com/bring-it-on/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bring_It_On_(film) (Wikipedia), and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0204946/ (Internet Movie Database).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.