Bring It On, the Gen Y classic 2000 cheerleading film, has made the perfectly calculated somersault from reel to stage.
The Tony award-nominated Bring It On: The Musical had a five-month run on Broadway before it closed in December 2012, and the touring cast started cheering its way throughout the United States this year. The show hits the Harris Center this weekend, ready with high ponies, short skirts and loads of spirit.
Reached by phone in Salt Lake City where she was performing in late February, principal actress Zuri Washington detailed the allure of what is quite possibly the most athletic musical of the decade.
The human fireworks that happen onstage are something that put people in awe, said Washington. Just seeing people going in the air, its astonishing on a Broadway stage.
Washington takes the stage as Danielle, leader of a foxy hip-hop crew at an inner-city California high school (film fans may remember them as the Clovers). The script is only loosely based on the film and features different names, new characters and a revamped plot, but the core themes of competition, passion, revenge, acceptance and love still come across loud and proud, said Washington.
The story follows an ambitious head cheerleader named Campbell, who is preparing her squad for national competition when she is redistricted from her wealthy white high school to Jackson, a racially diverse school without a cheerleading squad. When she finds out that a deceptive friend from her former team was responsible for her exile, she vows to get to nationals with a new team from Jackson. But first, she needs to persuade Washington and her posse to get in the game.
Though the cheerleading motif might suggest a cringeworthy camp factor, Washington said that the show tackles substantial cultural issues by highlighting the racial conflict between its two main characters and finding a resolution. Danielle and Campbells relationship, and its resulting comedy, drive the show, said Washington.
Within stereotypes theres always a slight bit of truth, she said. But there is juxtaposition to that. The writer has such a biting wit, and he uses a lot of that to display those contrasts between urban hip-hop crew vs. cheerleader, and why neither one is the right way to go and how they can come together to form something great.
Writer Jeff Whitty showed his talent for biting wit with the book for the musical comedy Avenue Q. The musical team is also a force to be reckoned with, led by Tony Award-winning composers from In the Heights and Next to Normal. The production is directed and choreographed by Tony winner Andy Blankenbuehler of Broadways hip-hop sensation In the Heights.
A team of Broadway heavyweights comes in handy with a musical like Bring It On, which Washington said was a beast to put together because of the unique challenges of a cheerleading show. The 33-person cast is divided into a dance ensemble for choreography and a cheer ensemble for professional stunting, with lots of overlap.
The show requires a hearty supply of standbys and swings that can jump into formation in the event of injury, which, Washington said, has not been a major problem thanks to safety training, spotters and on-scene medical personnel.
Washington does not do any stunting in the show, but learning her role was no cakewalk. Cheerleading in sync is very different from dance in sync, she said. You have to really be one with the pack its a completely different ballpark in terms of learning.
Luckily for the cheerleaders, the 46-by-40-foot Harris Center stage is larger than the average Broadway stage and perfect for a musical such as Bring It On, said Dave Pier, executive director of the center. The combination of a large stage and smaller house (850 seats), makes for a more intimate audience experience, he added.
Were excited about it because its new work coming off the Broadway stage, said Pier. Weve started to develop a good reputation for having these kinds of shows.
While Washington said audiences of all ages will enjoy the show, its high energy, fast pace and hip-hop themes make it particularly appealing to audience members under age 25.
Its very High School Musical, and the Disney generation loves that, she said.
It also has a niche following from cheerleaders, who Washington said show up to performances en masse. The Harris Center promoted the show at the Cheersport Northern California Grand Championship last weekend, Pier said.
They really enjoy being represented in a different medium thats not just on the national cheerleading stage, said Washington. To get their art told in a different form is awesome for a lot of them.
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