The music for “Bring It On” is better than just about anything you’ll hear on the Olympics telecasts. The breath-bating athleticism of the 27-member company is nearly as astonishing as the sleek gymnasts.
On a Broadway stage they flip, fly and land at attention atop one-another’s upraised palms. They shake booty, bump and grind, all the while singing their hormone-crazed hearts out.
There are no commercials. The good parts are evenly spread across two-and-a-quarter hours and the audience takes care of the commentating with gasps, hoots, appropriately-placed boos and raucous cheering.
“Bring It On” is an unself-consciously dopey, feel-good show, based on the 2000 movie about cheerleaders, a sanitized pep rally that provides the audience with eye-candy and an unassailable feel-good message, while paying union wages to a mixed company of Broadway hoofers and seasoned athletes.
At the center is a white girl who becomes head cheerleader only to find that redistricting has sent her to spend senior year in a distinctly non-white high school bereft of cheerleading talent. (Also, apparently, sports teams to cheer for.)
Once there, it takes about 15 minutes for Campbell (the appealing Taylor Louderman) to win over black top-girl Danielle (Adrienne Warren, also terrific) and turn her “crew” into a “squad” that will enable Campbell to go up against her former cheer-chums in the national competitions.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, of “In the Heights,” co-composed the music with “Next to Normal’s” Tom Kitt and co-wrote the lyrics with “High Fidelity’s” Amanda Green. The book is by “Avenue Q’s” Jeff Whitty. The Ringling-style staging and choreography are by Andy Blankenbuehler, also of “In the Heights.”
That is a ton of Broadway cred. The songs are instantly forgettable, but the rhythms do the job, even with a seriously undernourished pit band.
The set, which appears to have cost about $350, comprises gym mats, lockers and four big digital screens. This also makes sense, because when these extraordinary women and men playing girls and boys start moving, you don’t want anything to get in their way.
I have no idea how they do what they do eight times a week and survive. “Bring It On” makes “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” look like “Romper Room.”
One may moan and squirm about art, but that’s missing the point. Only fools go to Coney Island to complain about the rides.
Through Oct. 7 at the St. James Theatre, 246 W. 44th St. Information: +1-212-239-6200; http://www.telecharge.com. Rating: ***
What the Stars Mean: ***** Fantastic **** Excellent *** Very Good ** Good * Poor (No stars) Avoid
(Jeremy Gerard is the chief U.S. drama critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
Muse highlights include Greg Evans on movies and Lance Esplund on art.