We live at a time when any kind of material movie, book, album, comic book can become the basis for a musical.
Ideas that a generation ago seemed laughably far-fetched are distinct possiblities in the current climate. Late in This is Spinal Tap, the 1984 mockumentary, fictional metalists David St. Hubbins and Derek Smalls talk about Saucy Jack, the musical they wanted to write about Jack the Ripper. And in The Tall Guy, a 1989 comedy, Jeff Goldblum plays an actor in a musical based on The Elephant Man.
The humor, of course, came from the idea of Broadway musicals based on wildly inappropriate material. Now nothing is inappropriate.
Which brings us to Bring it On: The Musical, a lively, superficial show derived from a 2000 movie about competitive cheerleading. The idea isnt appreciably worse than turning Flash Dance and Footloose into musicals, but this one suffers in a way that many move-based shows do: When you turn a 90-minute film into a two-act stage musical, it inevitably feels too long and some of the tunes come across as little more than padding.
The non-Equity company performing this week at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is filled with likable performers and some of the songs transcend the show. Thats not doing so badly for a piece that appears to have been written by committee.
The writing talent is, without question, formidable. Jeffy Whitty, who wrote the book for Avenue Q, contributes the libretto for this piece. Whittys a clever guy and gets off a number of memorable barbed quips. The music is attributed to Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights) and Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) while the lyrics are credited to Miranda and Amanda Green.
Its impossible to say exactly who wrote what, although we can safely assume that the bursts of inventive hip-hop rhymes probably came from Miranda. Much of the music falls into a vague pop-rock-anthem-ballad milieu and after a certain point it feels as though every number has an obligatory big finish.
The show offers a life-affirming theme about overcoming social and racial divides and learning to be everything you can be. The message is handled with a light touch so the utter lack of originality is less objectionable than it could have been.
The central character, Campbell (Nadia Vynnytsky)is a fired-up cheerleader captain who is forced to go a new school after district boundaries are redrawn. She leaves her blonde airhead pals (Emily Mitchell, Mia Weinberger and Bailey Purvis) behind and struggles to find acceptance at her new school, which is much more diverse and has a palpable street vibe.
There she forms a friendship with Danielle (Zuri Washington), who dances with a funky crew but initially has no interest in cheerleading, and finds an amiably dorky boyfriend named Randall (Tyler Bertolone). Before you know it, Campbell has convinced her new friends to form a cheerleading squad. It all comes to a head in the competition finals, when Campbell must face off with her former classmates.
Vynnytsky nicely negotiates Campbells transition as she earns the respect of her new classmates, and Washington brings a lot of charisma to the stage. Good performances, in fact, are registered by everyone, including A.J. Lockhart as Cameron, Maisie Salinger as Bridget, Erin L. Fleming as Twig, Sharrod Williams as the cross-dressing La Cienega and Jennifer Geller as Nautica.
The company also includes some real competitive cheerleaders. You wont miss them. Theyre the ones spinning high into the air and performing effortless backflips.
To reach Robert Trussell, theater critic, call 816-234-4765 or send email to email@example.com.