For Bring It On, Road to Broadway Goes Through Atlanta

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Adrienne Warren and Dominque Johnson in the Alliance Theatre's Bring It On: The Musical. Photo by Greg Mooney

Pop Quiz: What new musical was created by a group that has six Tony Awards, two Grammys, a Pulitzer Prize, and started its road to Broadway in Atlanta? Give up? Believe it or not, the answer is the new Broadway cheerleading hit, Bring It On: The Musical. Loosely based on the film franchise of the same name, the show has been crafted by some of Broadway’s most talented young artists, and after a world premiere at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre in early 2011, is setting up shop at the St. James Theater for a limited run with an official Broadway opening on August 1.

Featuring a book by Avenue Q Tony Award-winner Jeff Whitty, the score was written by Grammy and Tony Award-winning composer Lin-Manuel Miranda (In The Heights) and Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winner Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) and Amanda Green (High Fidelity) shared lyric-writing duties with Miranda. Along with Grammy and Tony-winning Music Supervisor Alex Lacamoire, the three collaborated to establish unique sounds for two culturally diverse rival cheerleading squads; featuring traditional Broadway, freestyle rap, jam-band, and hip-hop sounds.

Led by Tony-winning director/choreographer Andy Blankenbeuller (In the Heights), the show is highlighted by never-before-seen choreography that is as diverse as the show’s music; featuring breath-taking cheerleading stunts and equally impressive hip-hop moves. Bring It On features a record 32 cast members making their Broadway debuts, including many competitive cheerleaders who have learned to act, and many actors who have learned to cheer.

ATLANTA SETS THE STAGE FOR SUCCESS

First under Kenny Leon, and since 2001 under the direction of Artistic Director Susan V. Booth, Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre has long been a fertile incubator for Broadway-bound musicals. In the past 15 years, the Alliance has presented pre-New York engagements for five eventual Broadway hits; Aida (1998), The Color Purple (2004), Sister Act: The Musical (2007), Come Fly Away (2009), and now Bring It On. The first four earned a total of 18 Tony nominations, winning five, and in 2007, the Alliance was the recipient of the Regional Theatre Tony Award.

The reason for the Alliance’s success as a regional home for major Broadway hits is due to its “hard to describe, but impossible to miss notion of Southern Hospitality,” according to Booth. “We try to treat artists like family while supporting their work in a world class way.” Lead by General Manager Max Leventhal, Booth sites the Alliance’s world-class staff as major draw for “big-aspiration works.”

When asked to describe working on such a unique show, with such an eclectic creative team, Booth described it in one word, “Heaven. None of the folks creating this show – from its authors to its director/choreographer to its performers – believed in the notion of ‘impossible,’” Booth added. “As a result, they’ve created something that’s just gobsmacking in its originality. Broadway’s never seen anything like this before, and I am crazy proud that Atlanta embraced it first.”

HOME IS WHERE THE START IS

Among the 32 Bring It On cast members making their Broadway debuts is an infectious ray of sass and sunshine, Alpharetta-native Ryann Redmond. As the outcast of the Truman High School cheerleading squad, Bridget, this triple-threat finds her swagger when she transfers to the inner-city Jackson High School, and exemplifies the heart and breakthrough talent that the show is all about.

The former South Forsyth High School honor-student first realized her immense talent while attending a “Broadway Dreams” camp on the same Alliance stage on which she later made her professional debut. “It was absolutely amazing being involved with Bring It On in Atlanta. (My family and friends) were able to see the show multiple times,” Redmond recalled. “It was such a cool experience to perform in my first professional show right there at home.”

Starting in workshops and continuing at the Alliance and on the pre-Broadway National Tour, Redmond has played Bridget since the show’s inception, an honor that is not lost on her. “Being with the show for so long has been such a blessing. Being able to create Bridget with Jeff (Whitty) and the rest of the team was a dream come true,” Redmond says. “I couldn’t be happier making my Broadway debut as Bridget. She is such a lovable girl and it is so exciting sharing that with New York audiences.”

Amongst the human fireworks filling the air on and above the stage at the St. James, Redmond is sure to leave an indelible mark on the New York theater scene, which will undoubtedly leave her hometown fans flipping with pride.

“IT’S ALL HAPPENING”

Bring It On: The Musical opens at the St. James Theater on August 1st for a limited run. To purchase tickets, visit the show’s website or call 1-800-432-7250.

By: Matt Tamanini