'Bring It On: The Musical' really pumps up the volume

Courtesy photoTeam effort: The excellent chorus in “Bring It On: The Musical” displays agility and athletic prowess.

Courtesy photoTeam effort: The excellent chorus in “Bring It On: The Musical” displays agility and athletic prowess.

What “Bring It On: The Musical” lacks in originality and depth, it almost makes up for in volume and energy.

Onstage at the Orpheum Theatre, the derivative show — very loosely based on the movie starring Kirsten Dunst about the trials and tribulations of high-school cheerleaders — has some notable creators. Tony Award winner Jeff Whitty (“Avenue Q”) wrote the book; Tony winner Tom Kitt (“Next to Normal”) and Lin-Manuel Miranda (“In the Heights”) the music, and Miranda and Amanda Green (“High Fidelity”), the lyrics. Tony winner Andy Blankenbuehler (“In the Heights”) directs and choreographs.

But they have lost their creative spark in this effort, a slick, shallow, pop-culture free-for-all that mixes “Glee,” “Legally Blonde,” “Mean Girls” and “All About Eve.” (Even the name of the girl plotting to take the heroine’s place is “Eva.”)

Still, Taylor Louderman has vocal, dance and gymnastics appeal as Campbell, the peppy, driven cheerleading captain whose fortune changes when redistricting sends her from a successful white school to a school in the ’hood.

After a tough start, she penetrates the hip-hop dance crew (headed by Danielle, the brassy Adrienne Warren) and persuades them to try competitive cheerleading.

Along the way, amid the snappy but mostly not funny sitcom banter, there are hollow lessons about believing in oneself and acknowledging individuality and diversity.

The volume is loud throughout, and the songs, which somehow manage to simultaneously be showtune- and hip-hop-like, are not memorable. Extensive use of video screens gives the sets an added superficiality; there is little organic to the proceedings.

Yet the cast boasts hard-working performers who make the most of the bad material. Louderman and Warren sound great, as does Elle McLemore as the conniving Eva.

Ryann Redmond’s spirit is infectious, but the writers fail her character, a fat girl who doesn’t make the cheer squad and is relegated to team mascot. Their seemingly meaningful attempts to let the heavy girl have sex appeal, and get a guy, ring false, as does so much of the show.

Undeniably, “Bring It On’s” greatest assets are the chorus members, including real-life competitive cheerleaders displaying mind-blowing pep, athleticism and versatility. Their stunts — flipping, tumbling, building human pyramids and flying through the air with ease — are numerous and thrilling.

Their spirit manages to spill out to the audience, which, on opening night, was full of youthful cheerleading aficionados.

lkatz@sfexaminer.com

THEATER REVIEW

Bring It On: The Musical

Where: Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. most Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. most Wednesdays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. most Sundays; plus select added performances and no performances Dec. 25 or Jan. 1; closes Jan. 7
Tickets: $31 to $200
Contact: (888) 746-1799, www.shnsf.com

artsentertainmentJeff WhittyTom Kitt

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