PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Bring It On; Three Cheers for Pompon Power

By Harry Haun
02 Aug 2012

Ariana DeBose
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Some special nasty words are saved back for McLemore, who plays her equally blonde and bitchy henchman, Eva. She's gleefully unrepentant: "I'm having the time of my life. Who doesn't want to be the villain? The girl everyone loves to hate, I hope." Happily, she pays for her sins eight times a week: "I have to do a basket-toss, some extensions, and a leapfrog, and a fall-down — quite a bit of stuff I had to learn."

If AJ Blankenship isn't the king of swings, he certainly redefines swing: "It's so much fun to be a swing in this show," he said with heart-holding sincerity. "All the worlds have collided for this show — all the dancing and the cheerleading and the tumbling. We eat up the audience's reaction so much. It helps us to perform."

Acrobatically, Ariana DeBose has a light sentence: "I only go up in the air once — but once is enough, and then my feet are safely on the ground. I have to say, however, that I do feel so safe when I am in the air. We have an incredible team."

Her character, Nautica, functions as Warren's No. 2 in command. "I'm the edgy one. I'm the Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes from the group TLC. That's what I am in the Jackson trio of black girls, and it's an absolute pleasure to be that person every night. Awesome."

Janet Krupin, as Kylar in the Caucasian camp, gets off easy in the stunt department, too: "The most difficult thing I get to do is dance in cowboy boots." She said the exuberance of the opening-night audience was the rule, not the exception. "It has been like that every single night we have played. That's what's so incredible!"

Jason Gotay, the stillest person on stage, is the love interest that leading lady Louderman gravitates toward. "I like the fact that he is super-grounded," Gotay explained. "When the action of the show is so chaotic, he's just chillin' — his energy is a lot more low-key than everyone else, and I love that about him." How super-grounded is he? "I'm the only one out of everyone who doesn't do any stunts."

Even the rotund Ryann Redmond, who provides some good sidekick comic relief, has her time in the sky, wearing what she called "messy buns" but what looks like Angela Lansbury's Mrs. Lovett wig from Sweeney Todd ("A Dream role of mine, actually," she beamed). Her role of Bridget has a social point. "She has a great message for chubby girls," she pointed out. "Bridget doesn't care what anyone thinks. When she finally gets accepted, she gets to shine at Jackson."

Calli Alden and Nicolas Womack
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Nicolas Womack, as Twig, is on the accepting side of that, forming a funny subsidiary couple with Bridget. His favorite part? "It has to be raps. All of Lin's raps are really great." So, he said, is the company he is currently keeping. "They all have heart, and they all commit to what they're doing on stage, so it's just an easy breeze."

Another character with a social purpose is the transgender girl on the Jackson campus, La Cienega, played with confidence and strength by Gregory Haney.

"Jeff and Andy let me do exactly what I wanted to do with the character, which is amazing — so she is very comfortable in her own shoes," he said — even though he isn't particularly comfortable in her shoes, coming off at least three inches shorter off-stage than he is on stage. "It's the heels. It changes my posture — and it's also the hair. I'm five-seven. With hair and heels, I'm five-ten."

Dominique Johnson is particularly pleased to play a cool Jackson jock. "I was never The Cool Guy in school. I love that he's mellow and calm and so butchy.

"Someone said to me, 'From now on, you will be Broadway Actor Dominique Johnson.' When they said that, it was all I could do to stand up. I was about to fall on the ground. Imagine the biggest dream you could ever dream, and then someone says you got it. It makes me think of that quote: 'What happens when your dream comes true? You dream bigger dreams.' Now, after tonight, I will dream bigger dreams."

In from In the Heights to spur certain key players and pals onto glory: (Janet Dacal, director Thomas Kail, Joshua Henry, producer Jeffrey Seller, Krysta Rodriguez, Eliseo Roman and book writer Quiara Alegria Hudes, a brand-new Pulitzer Prize winner.

Also in attendance: John Shea, Entertainment Weekly kingpin Jess Cagle, Disney actress Bella Thorne, The Manns (Terrence Mann and Charlotte d'Amboise, booked for Diane Paulus' Pippin overhaul at Cambridge's ART ), John Tartaglia, The Normal Heart's Joe Mantello and Tony-winning John Benjamin Hickey, playwright Paul Downs Colaizzo (whose Really, Really opens Jan. 31 at the Lucille Lortel, directed by David Cromer for MCC Theater), Phish's Trey Anastasio now of Hands on a Hard Body (Amanda Green's other double-dip of the Broadway season, due in March), Constantine Maroulis (bracing for a full-company rehearsal of Jekyll & Hyde, which he'll take on the road — to Broadway), How to Succeed's super successful Rob Ashford, Peter and the Starcatcher adapter Rick Elice and its director, Roger Rees (who's taking his one-man show to London), Howard McGillin (set for an upcoming Tuesday and Wednesday at 54 Below) with partner, attorney Richard Samson, director Michael Mayer (looking forward to working at the Metropolitan Opera in December), Megan Hilty and Brian Gallagher, set designer David Korins with little Stella, Thoroughly Modern Millie composer Jeanine Tesori, and adapter Dick Scanlan and Billy Porter just rapping his foot impatiently to begin rehearsals for Kinky Boots on Aug. 13.

Playbill Video attends the Broadway opening night of Bring It On.