"It Ain't No Thing": Bring It On: The Musical Cheers On Broadway's First Transgender Teen Character

By Adam Hetrick
15 Aug 2012

Jeff Whitty
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

"Gregory just got it," Whitty says. "I tried to write the character so she wasn't always the one being outrageous. And Gregory really understood that." According to Haney, "There's no question about who this character is and that's what I love about what Jeff Whitty did with it. There is this innate confidence. She's not a drag queen, she's not like Angel in Rent, you never see her out of a 'costume.' You're never going to see her come to school in boy's clothes. She is a woman. She wants to be a girl, she is a girl and that's how everybody sees her. It's how I saw her in the script."

This isn't to say Bring It On doesn't address La Cienega's identity and that audiences aren't caught off guard. Haney doesn't overtly manipulate his voice on stage, and La Cienega gives another character a quick reality check on what it means to be an outsider. To that extent, audiences, many of which include families with 'tween girls dressed in cheerleading attire, are embracing the character and how she is represented.

"The timing of when Gregory fully speaks took some calibration," Whitty laughs. "I love it when the audience is floored! I love when the audience freaks out. They realize that the character is transgender or that there is gender-mixing going on. I love that initial shock, because it is matched at the end by the ovation that Gregory gets. It shows that they've come full circle. So, I never freak out when there's that initial 'OH!' response."

"It's progressive. There are people coming to the show who aren't exposed to city life, who might never see a transgendered person like we do here in New York, or even the gay and lesbian population," Haney says. "I'm really proud. Bring It On is really about acceptance in general. It might say to kids, 'You don't know, this might be the coolest person you're ever going to meet.'"

Haney has had the chance to meet some of those cool people. "There was this woman patiently waiting outside the stage door in L.A. She was transgender and she came up to me and said, 'I just wanted to say, thank you.' I said, 'No, thank you,'" Haney recalls. "It really warms my heart to know that I am representing a community that has very few positive representations or even influences in the limelight. So to actually be part of it – to maybe change people's minds or perceptions – that might last a lifetime. It really does affect me in a greater way than I ever thought could possibly happen."

Haney on opening night
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Whitty's transgender friends have also expressed thanks in having their community positively represented on stage in a way that wasn't overtly political or preachy. "My goal was to make it subtle," he says. "I think there's something really new in that approach. People don't really notice this, especially in the activist side. GLAAD came to see the show, and I think they sort of shrugged. That's fine. I think the same thing happened with gay characters. The minute they stopped being specialty characters and became more included in the fabric of stories, I think that garnered public acceptance more quickly."

The acceptance is being proven nightly, in what Whitty calls a "deafening air-raid siren" of whoops and cheers when La Cienega gets kissed during the finale. The moment had been somewhat obscured on the tour, but the creative team chose to have a full-on kiss become part of the Bring It On finale when the musical arrived in New York.

"It's a nice cherry on top, because everyone is pulling for the underdog, and I love that La Cienega gets her moment at the end," says Haney. Whitty adds, "The most important thing is that there are variations on gender and there is real humanity in that. I think that is the key for the audience to understand."

For Whitty, Haney and the rest of the Bring It On team, the goal, to borrow a lyric from the musical, is to show that "It Ain't No Thing" to be who you are.

As La Cienega sings:

Love who you are
And the world will adore you –
And the couple that don't
At least they can't ignore you!
Now all the boys want to buy me bling –
It ain't no thing.