A scene from Bring It On: The Musical
(© Joan Marcus)
A scene from Bring It On: The Musical
(© Joan Marcus)
Amazing feats of athleticism are among the many joys of Bring It On: The Musical, currently at the St. James Theatre. Inspired by the motion picture franchise about competitive cheerleading, this new tuner features some amazing routines by director/choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler that are likely to have the audience cheering the musical's vibrant young cast.

Jeff Whitty's script for the show borrows certain elements from the original 2000 teen comedy and its direct-to-video sequels (particularly from 2006's Bring It On: All or Nothing), but for the most part it charts its own territory.

The story centers on Campbell (Taylor Louderman), a senior who was supposed to be the new captain of the Truman High School cheerleading squad. However, she is forced to transfer schools due to a redistricting that places her at Jackson -- a school in a less affluent and more racially diverse school -- and one that doesn't even have a cheerleading team.

Whitty plays around with several film and musical tropes, but recombines them in some surprisingly fresh ways. The only main drawback to his script is the caricatured manner in which the show's antagonist, Eva (Elle McLemore, in a performance that seems to be channeling Kristin Chenoweth), develops.

The show's music (by Tom Kitt and Lin-Manuel Miranda) and lyrics (by Amanda Green and Miranda) go back and forth between musical pop sounds and hip-hop rhythms to immediately showcase the differences between Campbell's two schools. Similarly, Blankenbuehler's choreographic vocabulary is attuned to the different movement styles of these two student populations.

Louderman brings a fresh-faced quality to Campbell that is endearing. In the secondary lead, Adrienne Warren is strong as Danielle, the leader of the dance crew at Truman that Campbell wants to turn into a cheerleading squad.

But the real delights are in the supporting cast, particularly Ryann Redmond as Bridget, who begins the show as the looked-down-upon mascot at Truman and discovers new-found popularity and self-esteem at Jackson. Nicolas Womack is adorable -- and hilarious -- as her potential paramour, Twig.

Meanwhile, Jason Gotay delivers an understated but sweetly affecting performance as Randall, a potential love interest for Campbell, and Gregory Haney is fierce as La Cienega, a transgendered member of Danielle's dance crew.

Adding to the effectiveness of the show is the terrific design team, which includes the always innovative set designer David Korins. His work is enhanced by video designer Jeff Sugg, who makes great use of the large monitors that are used within the production. Lighting designer Jason Lyons also impresses, particularly with his work during the show's big production numbers.

Ultimately, it's those numbers -- with girls flung high into the air, boys doing amazing flips, and everyone moving to the show's pulsating and infectious beats -- that audiences will most remember.