Bring It On, the Musical: Taking Cheerleading To New Heights
Who would have thought I could love a Broadway musical based on a cheesy but fun movie about cheerleading (I’ve seen it, at best it’s a guilty pleasure). I went to a high school that didn’t even have a cheerleading squad. So, as a cultural icon, cheerleading scans in a way that makes me feel anthropological, and ready to dish out feminist critique. (For more on that, see the end of this post.)
But, get Lin Manuel Miranda involved, and my curiosity was piqued. Miranda conceived and wrote In the Heights, and also originated the starring role in the show. I loved In the Heights for its characters, for the wordplay, and for the way melodies wove through one another. The choreography and staging were pretty neat, too.
About halfway through the first act, as I watched dancers leap and tumble, and listened to some really excellent lyrics and harmonies– I knew I would be seeing this show at least another time. Possibly more. I loved it.
The story’s simple. Girl dreams of nothing but leading her cheerleading squad to victory at Nationals. Then, whoops, she’s redistricted out of her affluent (predominantly white) school district, and into a school that is much more interracial and doesn’t have a cheerleading squad. They have a dance crew, with plenty of hip hop influence. Cheerleading girl hatches a plan to motivate her new school to form a squad and best her old school. Dad mentioned a New York Times reviewer calling the story “thin.” But plenty of award-winning and outstanding musicals work with a pretty thin story. So, I call the New York Times reviewer stuffy.
Between the dancing, a really fun ensemble cast, and some decidedly barbed, hilarious humor, this show takes a goofy movie and turns it into a delight. Sly comic touches of character and dialogue move fast against some great melodies. That’s one of the reasons I want to see it again- I was keeping track of all the flying, leaping characters and the super-fast intricacies of dialogue and melody. I’m sure I missed a bunch of things.
Also, I just want to hang out with those characters again.
More on cheerleader movies and really smart, bitingly funny critique, from YA author, Karen Healey.
Saved (which also got turned into a musical I really liked.)