Broadway celebrated Olympics Week with a fast one-two punch — Aug. 1: the cheerleading competition at the St. James, Bring It On: The Musical; Aug. 2: the boxing-and-beyond event at the Longacre, Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth. Then, it takes the next six weeks off, resuming the season Sept. 10 with the acrobatics of Chaplin, a new musical.
By then, the high-school rah-rah wars of Bring It On (rarefied, white-bread Truman High vs. multiracial, inner-city Jackson High) will be about ready to bring it off, edging toward an Oct. 7 end-date — unless, of course, people-pyramiding and girl-tossing catch on with tourists and New York masses alike and force the show into overtime.
This may not be extreme cheerleading, but it's high-octane stuff and leaves last season's Lysistrata Jones' stab at it in the dust. For Broadway, it is a unique and authentic, if decidedly eccentric, spectacle — and on opening night it was hard to tell who were the louder cheerleaders — the actors or the audience.
The stage is perpetually a-bounce with young, athletic bodies, flying across the stage with the greatest of ease, shooting 15 or 20 feet in the air without any warning.
Bernard Telsey, whose Telsey + Company cast the show, claimed he has had a trampoline installed in his office for any replacement casting that may come up.
Not one of the bodies is near the age of 30, and most of them haven't been seen on a Broadway stage before: A record-rattling 32 in a cast of 37 are marking their Main Stem debuts. The accent throughout is on youth. The plot's competing schools have no teachers, no principals (principles are iffy), no parents, no guidance counselors, no janitors. There is no adult — on stage, anyway — to pull down the go-for-the-burn exuberance.
The secret of director-choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler's success? "I collaborated with a cheerleading consultant, and we sorta found our way together," he admitted at the after-party held at the swank rooftop garden at 230 Fifth Avenue.
A Tony winner for his high-stepping, hard-driving choreography in In the Heights, Blankenbuehler confessed he was not a cheerleader in high school. "It was an all-boys school, and we didn't have any cheerleaders," he said a little sadly. At least, now he has made up for lost time — lost half-time — with a vengeance.
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