BWW Reviews: BRING IT ON: Fun and On Fire at TUTS
A mash-up of cheerleading and musical theatre? Ready...okay! Actually, it's better than okay. The Humphrey's School Of Musical Theatre brings it on indeed. With unflagging energy and never-say-die commitment, this TUTS production of BRING IT ON is pure exhilaration.
It's not a deep or provocative story line- anyone who has seen movies such as Bring It On, Mean Girls, or Clueless will recognize familiar themes; teen rivalry, the price of self-absorption, and personal growth "lite". Sometimes light and fluffy translates to sassy, heartfelt, and invigorating, and that's just what I was treated to at Zilkha Hall last night. The theatical version of BRING IT ON is very loosely based on the movie, and the tweaks and changes are a winning endeavor from the film version.
Is this production Broadway quality? In some ways, yes. Director Roshunda Jones has done an expert job with her cast of TUTS' Humphrey's Musical Theatre students. Every moment is considered, every action makes sense, and the pacing is without fault. The entire cast is packed with teenagers who dance with precision and passion and they sound fabulous together.
The acting is extremely impressive among the leads, especially McKenna Marmolejo's true and full-ranged portrayal of Campbell, the protagonist of the story. Amber Grant shines as the self-depracating Bridget, a lovable girl who blossoms in a new school environment. Mallory Bechtel is pure genius as the maniacal cheerleader Eva, especially in the "nightmare" scenes, and in her big solo number "Killer Instinct". Gerrá Gistand has a big, full voice, and she is fully committed to her role as the feisty Danielle. The school's tranvestite, La Cienega, is played with spot-on wit and sass by Kedran Wade, though you can't help but wonder if the character would realistically survive in a school with such a rough vibe. Katja Yanko, who plays the hot-blooded Nautica, has a distinctively appealing voice. Some of the lead singers are still developing vocally, which is understandable given their ages, but overall the vocal performances are pleasing. In this particular show the ensemble is extremely entertaining, with performers who radiate stage presence and are really, really, fun to watch.
Arguably the best number in the show is "Do Your Own Thing", at which point we are introduced to the gang at Jackson High School. The performance quality of this number raises goosebumps; it's that good. Many of the best songs in the show were penned by Tony Award-winner Lin-Manuel Miranda, including "It's All Happening" and "Cross The Line". All of these numbers have a push and drive to them that is handled with professional-level verve in this production.
Shay Rodgers' choreography is fun, edgy, and captivating. In a show like this the choreography (and cheer routines) are key, and this aspect of the show is successful on all counts.
So, BRING IT ON isn't Shakespeare. Who cares? These kids are on fire.