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Bring It On: The Musical at Cadillac Palace Theatre | Theater review

The new high-school musical retains the tongue-in-cheek spirit of the cheerleading movie that inspired it.

Photo: Michael Lamont
Bring It On: The Musical

The creatives behind Bring It On: The Musical have five Tony Awards among them, all for shows that’ve had a distinct effect on the 21st-century musical-theater landscape: Avenue Q, In the Heights and Next to Normal. Bring It On doesn’t belong among that pantheon. Its influence on future musicals, if any, will be limited to director Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography, which incorporates cheerleading acrobatics for spectacular routines.

When cheerleading captain Campbell (perfectly peppy Taylor Louderman) is transferred from her posh suburban school to the urban Jackson High, her hopes of making it to nationals seem lost. With the help of Jackson’s resident queen bee Danielle (charismatic but way over-the-top Adrienne Warren), Campbell turns Jackson’s dance crew into a squad that isn’t afraid to break the rules to rouse a crowd.

Like the 2000 film that loosely inspired it, the musical doesn’t take itself too seriously. Reverent of the sport while exploiting its stereotypes, Jeff Whitty’s libretto delights in the cattiness of its characters but tries to emphasize the camaraderie that develops within a squad.

Tom Kitt’s pop-rock and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop leanings create a score somewhere between Heights and High School Musical, but with none of the earworm songs of either. Though well-sung and danced, Bring It On doesn’t rise above the formulaic music and juvenile story; still, it soars when the squads leave behind their personal drama and let their athleticism do the talking.

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