PLAYBILL THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, July 28-Aug. 3: Bring It On, Mike Tyson, Diner and Christopher Plummer

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03 Aug 2012

Taylor Louderman in <i>Bring It On: The Musical</i>.
Taylor Louderman in Bring It On: The Musical.
Photo by Craig Schwartz

Broadway openings in August? As recently as 20 years ago, they would have been unheard of. But no longer. We've got air-conditioning, don't we? And there's not a lot of competition for press and audiences during the dog days, is there? So why not open in August?

In the past couple seasons there have been more than the usual Broadway contingent of plays and musicals about sports. (The usual number of such specimens being: zero.) There's been Lombardi, Lysistrata Jones and Magic/Bird. None have done terribly well. Nonetheless, this month brings two more efforts: Bring It On: The Musical, the new show inspired by the popular film franchise about rival cheerleading teams, which opened Aug. 1 at the St. James Theatre; and Undisputed Truth a one-man show about Mike Tyson, starring Mike Tyson, which opened Aug. 2 at the Longacre Theatre.

The critical reaction to the former was summed up by Variety, which said, "Neither roses nor brickbats are likely to be thrown at Bring It On, but you'll see plenty of cheerleaders tossed up high." Indeed, director-choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler's work was the most highly praised aspect of the production. "It's when the cast members drop the bonding and the mean-girl bitching to take part in Mr. Blankenbuehler's exciting cheerleading routines, arranging themselves into dazzling human starbursts," wrote the New York Times, "that Bring It On really brings something fresh to the ever-expanding roster of shows aimed at the teenage demographic." The Hollywood Reporter said, "the sheer athleticism of the event numbers — with whirling cheerleaders catapulted into the air and then caught in gasp-inducing basket tosses — provides enough genuine thrills to compensate for the stop-start storytelling. When the girls are airborne, the show soars."

Mike Tyson and Spike Lee
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Otherwise, the show — with music by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Tom Kitt and lyrics by Miranda and Amanda Green — was thought to have "the feel of a daffy lark embarked upon as a summer-vacation goof" (the Times); and to be "harmless entertainment" (Newsday).

Undisputed Truth is the kind of oddball Broadway show that makes theatre critics ask themselves, "Is this theatre?" and "Do I really have to review this just because it's on a Broadway stage?" Thus, the unusual number the second- and third-string drama reviewers that were sent to the Longacre. The critics were, by and large, kind. The Daily News declared, "Like his life, the show is entertaining, fascinating and messy. At the center of it all is a 46-year-old from Brooklyn with enough triumphs and tribulations to fuel a few memoirs." Newsday said, "The show, directed by Spike Lee, is at times crude, at times emotional and mostly funny. His delivery is on target, although often laced with profanity."

The Times wrote, "That incongruous, almost childlike Tyson charm pokes through occasionally and makes you momentarily forget how ham-handed and manipulative the show is. Sure, we should save our accolades for the many people who have transcended difficult beginnings without abusing drugs, racking up a rape conviction and biting off a piece of another guy's ear. But by the end of Undisputed Truth you may at least be willing to grant that it would be swell if Mr. Tyson has finally found a nondestructive way to exist in the world."


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