“Bring It On: The Musical” is based on a 2000 teen comedy film about two cheerleading squads. The movie spanned four direct-to-video sequels (the 2004 “Bring It On Again,” the 2006 “Bring It On: In It to Win It” and the 2009 “Bring It On: Fight to the Finish”). The musical begins its national tour at the Ahmanson, with high-energy performances running until 10 December 2011.
If you haven’t seen the “Bring It On” movies, then here’s a brief history:
The first movie centered on Torrance Shipman (Kirsten Dunst) who is a senior and the team captain on a cheer squad that hopes to get their sixth consecutive national championship. Her team, the Toros (in Rancho Carne High in San Diego), are using routines stolen from an East Compton (the rough side of Los Angeles) cheerleading team, the Clovers.
The movie was filmed in Oceanside, San Diego State University, the Academy of Our Lady of Peace in San Diego, Eastlake High School in Chula Vista, Kearny Senior High in San Diego and Torrey Pines High in San Diego.
“Bring It On Again,” centers on Whittier (Anne Judson-Yager), who is a first year student at a California State college and is determined to join the national varsity cheerleading team. Although she makes the team, personal politics lead to her leaving, but recruiting members of the drama club, the dance club and a few other groups. Her squad ends up competing against the more established squad, and wins.
The filming locations for the second movie were Altadena, California (North of Pasadena) and Northridge, Los Angeles County.
In “Bring It On: All or Nothing,” Britney Allen (Hayden Panettiere) is the captain of her cheerleading squad at Pacific Vista High. Her boyfriend is the quarterback. When her father loses his job and they move to Crenshaw Heights, Britney finds herself in a blue collar neighborhood where she doesn’t fit in. The head cheerleader Camille butts heads with Britney, but when Britney shows she has the right stuff, Camille allows her to join the team but when Britney lies to miss a game in order to attend Pacific Vista High’s homecoming game with her boyfriend, things go sour. The singer Rihanna appears as herself. The IMDB lists Los Angeles County as the location for filming.
The “Bring It On: In It to Win It,” has the West Coast Sharks cheerleading squad competing against the East Coast Jets cheerleaders. Carson (Ashley Benson) leads the Sharks. Brooke (Cassie Scerbo) leads the Jets. Carson falls in love with Penn who is on the Jets squad.
Unlike the other movies, this was was filmed outside of Los Angeles, mostly in Orlando, Florida (Universal Studios, Hard Rock Hotel, Universal Orlando Resort).
The 2009 “Bring It On: Fight to the Finish” is about Lina Cruz (Christina Milian), an East Los Angeles cheerleader transfers to Malibu Vista High School because her mother marries a wealthy man. Lina competes with a squad called Sea Lions against the Jaguars whose captain Avery is snobbish and racist.
This movie was filmed in Malibu, Occidental College, Glendale Community College and Cal State Northridge.
“Bring It On the Musical” shares the basic common premise with the movie series: cheerleading captain finds herself displaced and builds a team that beats or at least is a greater crowd-pleaser than usually her former team. Of course, there is some mean girl in the mix and except in the last 2009 installment, the girl is blonde.
With music by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Tom Kitt and lyrics by Amanda Green and a book by Jeff Whitty, the musical premiered at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta in January of this year (2011). The Ahmanson is the first city of the show’s national tour.
The main character has an unusual name for a girl, Campbell (Taylor Louderman). That follows the tradition set by the first movie (Torrance), the second movie (Whittier) and the fourth movie (Carson), although all three of those names are actually city names in Los Angeles County.
Campbell is set to be the captain of the cheerleading squad during her senior year at Truman High when disaster strikes: Due to redistricting, she’s sent to another school, Jackson High, one that doesn’t even have a cheerleading squad. In this less affluent area, Campbell, along with a four-time cheerleader reject, Bridget (Ryann Redmond), try to fit in.
Bridget is the one who is asked to join a dance crew which also includes such diverse members as transvestite La Cienega (Gregory Haney) and finds that her bountiful bootie gets some admiration. Bridget also reveals that the new captain of Campbell’s former squad, Eva (Elle McLemore), has a mother on the school board who led the redistricting. Eva also has designs on Campbell’s boyfriend, Steven (Neil Haskell).
Campbell at first clashes with the head of the crew, Danielle (Adrienne Warren), who puts Campbell through some hazing, but they eventually team up and the crew recruits other students to join the squad.
You know how this is going to end, don’t you? Yes, the story line is predictable. The whole production is a little long and the first act could be tightened up and most of those songs are forgettable.
The second act improves and has better songs (two that I can think of), yet what everyone is really here for, what this show is really about, is the same thing the movies were about: cheerleading with plenty of stunts. David Korins’ set design is simple and utilitarian. Aside from some roll-on pieces such as school book lockers, the floor is padded like a gymnastics gym with a rectangle marked off in white. The back of the stage is padded as are the lighting scaffolding with crash pads.
There’s plenty of tumbling men and women and popping women into the air for a catch. Pyramids and built and disassembled and the costumes are mostly cheerleader wear (by Andrea Lauer).
Bridget and La Cienega are the most interesting characters and engaging portrayed by Redmond and Haney respectively. One wishes a sequel could be made around one or both of those characters, but the spirit of “Bring It On” is about predictable situations with predictable golden girls of cheer.
The director/choreographer, Andy Blankenbuehler, has Broadway credits–he won a Tony for choreography in 2008 for “In the Heights.” He was previously nominated for the musical version of “9 to 5.” He’s been a guest choreographer for “So You Think You Can Dance” and he has danced on Broadway in such shows as “Fosse,” “Contact,” “Saturday Night Fever,” “Big” and “Guys and Dolls.”
The production also relied on Varsity – We Are Cheerleading, as a cheerleading consultant. This company hosts summer camps and other events for over 350,000 cheerleaders and is the host of national championship events.
This isn’t a great musical, but it does have a sense of humor and some great cheerleading performances. Even if you weren’t a cheerleader (I wasn’t) or haven’t gone cheerleader for Halloween (I have), if you enjoy women in short skirts (my husband does) or want to remember the sensation of flying through the air (on the trampoline or via a dance lift), or want to think of some ingenuous stunt for your squad or crew, this musical will do.
‘Bring It On: The Musical,’ Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A. Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 and 8 p.m. ;Sundays (call for exceptions), 1 and 6:30 p.m. . Ends December 10. $20 to $120. (213) 972-4400 or www.CenterTheatreGroup.org/BringItOn Running time: 2 hour, 30 minutes.