If you desire to put the newest teen musical into cultural and chronological perspective, try this sobering equation: The Truman High students of Bring It On: the Musical could very well be the progeny of the Rydell High Schoolers of Grease.
Yeah, really. Danny Zuko, Betty Rizzo, et al first rocked and rolled on Broadway back in 1971. Do the math.
The story focus is considerably narrower in Bring It On, currently kicking off the Dallas Summer Musicals' 2012 season. The new and highly entertaining show is set in the somewhat crazed subculture of competitive cheerleading. It's not enough just to cheer the Buccaneers to victory. The Truman squad means to be the best of the best, as determined by the tournament-like "cheer camp." En route to that goal, they train as hard as any athletes.
The routines devised by director/choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler are kinetic marvels, as lithe torsos explode into the air like human missiles. Movement is paramount here, so much so that the Playbill does not even bother listing the names of the songs by Tom Kitt, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Amanda Green.
Jeff Whitty's story line (comfortably different from the decade-old movie script) centers around Campbell, the gorgeous and savvy blonde captain of the Truman cheer squad until a redistricting moves her across town to Jackson High, which doesn't even have cheerleaders.
Taylor Louderman is a willowy wonder as Campbell, struggling and at times scheming to adjust to her new school and new schoolmates. Most of them are African-American. Campbell is white. Her partner in adjustment is Bridget (Ryann Redmond), a chubby nerdette who is accustomed to being outside of the in crowd.
Of course, Bridget soon learns to walk the walk, talk the talk and sing the song, to loud approval from the student body and the Music Hall audience.
Elle McLemore accomplishes a nifty acting stretch as Eva, the huggably vulnerable newcomer to the Truman squad. Ah, but there's more to Little Eva, as McLemore reveals in the flashy number, "Killer Instinct."
Campbell, meanwhile finds her niche at Jackson High, after paying her dues by agreeing to cavort in a leprechaun costume (a marvelous sequence). Later, to seal the acceptance, Louderman joins Adrienne Warren (as the queen bee of the Jackson "crew") for a sisterly duet.
The guys don't carry much weight here. Exceptions include Neil Haskell and Jason Gotay as the males in Campbell's life, and NIcolas Womack as the Jackson High hottie who hooks up with Bridget.
Kate Rockwell is a delight as bitchy Skylar, for whom cheerleading is like a religion. Ditto Gregory Haney as the transgender "coed" known as La Cienega.
Rockwell provides a delicious moment when her character learns that Campbell's new school has no cheerleading squad.
"No cheerleaders?" she wonders, astonished. "What's the purpose of having a school if you don't have cheerleaders?"
That would be like Grease without the lightning, which is something Bring It On has in droves.