Nowadays, more and more popular films have gotten the Broadway treatment. Admittedly, some of these musicals might leave you scratching your heads as to how — or why — they could possibly be made into successful theatrical productions.
But every once in a while, you'll get something like Bring It On: The Musical, with source material that's practically begging for stage lights.
"It's a really fun show," said Zuri Washington, who plays Danielle in the touring production, which is at the Lexington Opera House this weekend. "In it's own way, it's a very updated version of Hairspray."
Bring It On: The Musical might share certain themes or settings with other musicals that came before it, but it pulls off an athletic and musical spectacle that's all its own.
For the Opera House's Broadway Live series, it is a first to have the touring production of a show the year after it was nominated for a Tony Award for best musical.
The musical is based on the hit 2000 film Bring It On, starring Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union. It tells the story of Campbell (played in the stage show by Nadia Vynnytsky), the cheerleading captain of Truman High School, who is forced by redistricting to enroll in Jackson High School in the inner city. There she encounters the Queen Bees dance crew, led by Danielle. After a shaky introduction, Campbell eventually gets in the dance crew's good graces and persuades them to form their own cheerleading squad. She then employs the Queen Bees' unique style to take on her former high school at Nationals.
Along the way, the story touches on the struggle to fit in, young romance, catty backstabbing and learning to be yourself. In other words, typical high school stuff. This familiar story strikes a balance between the serious and the lighthearted, and it was brought to life by some of Broadway's best, with the story, music and lyrics all written by Tony Award winners. They included librettist Jeff Whitty, who won a Tony for best book of a musical for Avenue Q; composer Tom Kitt, who won for the score and orchestrations of Next to Normal; composer and lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda, who won for In the Heights; and co-lyricist and Tony nominee Amanda Green.
In addition to the production's Tony pedigree, its blend of pop and hip-hop music and dance with mind-blowing cheerleading routines helped make Bring It On: The Musical a hit from the moment it arrived onstage.
Brooklyn Freitag, a native of Paris, Ky., was a member of the featured ensemble when Bring It On: The Musical made its debut in Atlanta in 2011 and was later part of the Broadway cast when the musical premiered in 2012. Freitag didn't have a theater background, but she was a former cheerleader with the Kentucky Elite All-Stars squad and the University of Louisville.
The cheerleaders involved with the production taught the singers how to cheer, and vice versa. Unlike the already complicated task of simultaneously hitting the right notes and dance steps that come with most musicals, Bring It On: The Musical came with a unique set of challenges.
"I'm literally doing back flips and flipping across the floor while singing," Freitag said. "I was like, 'You want me to do what?' And they were like, 'Just try it.'"
As a member of the current touring production, Washington, who grew up in New York, didn't have a cheerleading background, but she has learned the ropes on this tour. The musical features a theatrical and a cheerleading ensemble, with the cheerleading ensemble consisting of some of the best cheerleaders from across the country.
All of the ensemble's flips, formations and stunts seem to thrill crowds.
"We hear gasps in the audience every night," Washington said. "People are shocked what's happening onstage is happening in front of their face."
Freitag, who now lives in Los Angeles, said, "I swear, guys I've talked to are like, 'I wasn't really sure about coming to this, but ... it's pretty awesome.'"
Washington said, "It really appeals to so many more people than I thought it might. Even my mother was like, 'I didn't think I'd like it at all, but you did an amazing job.'"
By standing out from the pack, Freitag says, Bring It On: The Musical has been able to draw audiences in addition to the fans of just cheerleaders or musicals.
"It's definitely one of a kind," she said. "We're the only ones doing the kind of things we do."
Blake Hannon is a Mount Sterling-based writer.