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BWW Interviews: Talking Bring it On with Composer Tom Kitt

Bring it On: The Musical wraps up its very successful tour in Toronto this month, where it opens at the newly named Ed Mirvish Theatre on May 3rd.  The musical is loosely based on the popular film franchise, and is set in the world of competitive cheerleading.  The show has a powerhouse team behind it, including Tony Award®-winning writer Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q); Tony Award®-winning composer Lin-Manuel Miranda (In The Heights); Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award®-winning composer Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) and lyricist Amanda Green (High Fidelity); Tony Award®-winning orchestrator Alex Lacamoire (Wicked); and Tony Award®-winning director/choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler (In The Heights).

BWW sat down to speak with Tom Kitt, who composed the music alongside Lin-Manuel Miranda.  Bring it On: The Musical is a bit of adeparture from Mr. Kitt’s previous work, but one which provides unique challenges for the composer.  He discussed those challenges with us, as well as what it was like working with professional cheerleaders and what he feels we can all do to encourage young people to continue to become involved in the arts:

First, congratulations on Bring it On! This show is quite the departure from what you’ve done in the past – how did you become involved in the project?

I love musical comedy, I love comedy in general and I have varied taste in terms of books, film, theatre and culture.  This is a story that I liked when I saw the movie back in the mid nineties – it resonated with me in terms of how smart it was and how the story was one that audiences really embraced.  It was a sports movie but it had this new world of competitive cheerleading for me to explore.  That’s what I was looking for, something I could add my voice to and something that was different.  Plus I think that this show appeals to a wide generational crowd, and after American Idiot and Next to Normal it has been a fun world to drop in to.

Is it true that the musical doesn’t use the plot from the popular films?

It is.  The show is based on the films in the sense that it is set in the world of competitive cheerleading, but we wanted to create something new.  Jeff Whitty wrote the book and really wanted to create a new story based on this material so in a way this is more of an adaptation. We’re taking the basic components of the story and starting fresh.  Anyone who knows the movies coming into the musical will feel like they’re in that world, but the characters and the plot will be new.

In the film franchise there is generally a face-off between schools of different cultural and economic backgrounds.  That exploration provides wonderful material and the show has a dynamic movement component in terms of the cheerleading world, and I’ve learned a lot about that world working on Bring it On.

For this show you had to cast actual cheerleaders who didn’t necessarily have a musical theatre background. For you as composer, did you find you had to tweak the material knowing that you were working with musical theatre novices?

It does play a role because you have to be conscious of the movement factor, and ensure that what you’re composing takes into account what your characters are going to have to do physically while they are singing.  .  I had to learn where the show really moves in a big way and make sure my writing wasn’t trying too much at those times. 

We have a great combination of pro cheerleaders and musical theatre performers in this show. Universally the cast is quite young so we have people on both sides of the spectrum making their theatrical debut which is wonderful.  They’re all learning from each other and being inspired by each other.  The world of cheerleading is incredibly demanding, incredibly physical and it has a lot of risk.  The way people fly through the air is so thrilling to watch but it takes hours and hours of practice and training.  So you can imagine a musical theatre performer might need a lot to get comfortable, and as a creative team we were cognizant of that.  I really can’t say enough about everyone’s hard work and dedication.

You composed this show with Tony Award Winner Lin-Manuel Miranda, was it hard collaborating with another very strong and talented composer?

Not at all! I can’t say enough good things about him.  He’s one of the most exciting artists I’ve worked with.  We both knew coming into this process that we would be working together and we were really open to where the process would take us.  It’s ended up with us really working side by side a lot so it’s been a learning experience.  I’ve enjoyed being able to watch him work and we both just wanted the best show possible.  Being led by that common desire has created this wonderful show, and the benefit is that we’ve developed a wonderful friendship as well.

Toronto is set to be the last stop on this tour – is the plan to bring the show to Broadway?

We know that there’s a next incarnation for this show, but we don’t yet know what it involves.  We’ve been working on it while it’s been on the road and it has been great seeing what wonderful feedback and response it has been getting from various cities.  Plus we’ve had the chance to solve a lot of the issues we once had with it.  We really want to get it right for wherever it ends up.

Finally, what do you think is the one thing we  should all be doing to encourage our younger generation to go to the theatre?

I think the best thing to do is just to let them experience it.  We need to have programs and events where kids are encouraged to come to the theatre because we all know that there is nothing that lights that fire more than actually being in the theatre and experiencing it firsthand.  I also think it’s great to have kids involved with artists and doing creative activities and events to help them develop their love for the arts.

How about yourself? Was there one show that really lit the fire for you?

It’s hard to say because I’ve seen so many wonderful things and many that have helped guide me to where I am today. But I do remember when I first saw Cabaret as a teenager it was my first experience being exposed to a story in musical theatre which took on a serious subject matter.  That’s when I saw that musical theatre could affect you in a very special way, and that was a turning point for me.

When and Where?

Bring it On

The Ed Mirvish Theatre

Performance Schedule:

May 2nd – June 3rd 2012

Tuesday - Saturday 8PM
Wednesday, Saturday & Sunday 2PM
Added performance Thursday May 3, 2PM
Sunday May 6, 8PM

Tickets range from $35-$130 and can be purchased in person at the box office, by phone at 416-872-1212 or online at

Rush Seats:

There are a limited number of $25 rush seats available prior to each performance, 2 hours before curtain in person at the box office.  Limit one ticket per person

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