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The tale of a theatre lover who followed Bring It On: The Musical across the country
It was a perfectly normal Friday in early spring 2011 when my life changed forever. I was at my desk and got an email from my Los Angeles pal, Pam. She was visiting our mutual friend Allison in Atlanta and was shocked to see posters for Bring It On: The Musical. She hadn't even known the show existed, and its run at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre was just about to end. Clearly, the unseen hand of fate had brought her there.
More than a decade earlier, Pam and I had seen the movie Bring It On on its opening night (also the first weekend we met) and absolutely loved it. It was a crazy idea, but if she could somehow get tickets for the musical's last weekend, would I consider flying in from NYC for one night to see it?
Of course I had to do it, and less than 36 hours later I was settling into my seat between Pam and Allison. If the show ended up being bad, at least it would be a funny shared experience. But we all adored the movie so much that we were secretly hoping the various Tony winners involved in the production -- Lin-Manuel "In The Heights" Miranda, Jeff "Avenue Q" Whitty and Tom "Next to Normal Kitt, among others -- had managed to produce an adaptation as winning as its source material.
That night, we learned what the audience at the Tonys would find out two years later: It was great.
The show wasn't a musical retelling of the movie. Instead, it featured new characters in a fresh story that echoed the film's competitive high-school cheerleading milieu, and its themes of white privilege and black authenticity. While it couldn't improve on the movie's memorable one-liners, seeing gravity-defying moves live onstage was much more exciting than in a film with its tricky editing. And the songs were catchy as hell.
Flying to Atlanta for the evening was one of the most impulsive things I have ever done, but I've never regretted it. For months, as the show traveled around the country following its initial Atlanta run, we all felt smug that we'd gotten there first. And when the touring company announced that it would be in Los Angeles over my birthday, Pam threw up the Bring It On signal (not a real thing, but if it were, it would be a pompon that lit up the night sky), and Allison and I made the trip west to see it again. We compared the changes in the story and songs to the Atlanta iteration and -- thanks to our compulsive tweeting and podcasting about the show, plus a connection through friends to Miranda -- we even got to check out the set up close.
My social media comments on the show tied me to it, and strangers would tell me about productions in their towns and ask if I was coming. It was a fair question; if I'd flown to two cities to see it, why not add Chicago or Denver or Houston to the list? As I ponder my Bring It On year, I do regret not catching it in Toronto with my sister who lives there, but by then I knew it was headed for Broadway. Having traveled to see it twice, I was looking forward to catching it in a theatre I could walk to.
While I'm sure everyone in the audience the night I went in NYC had a good time, I doubt any of them felt the kind of parental pride I did, having seen these kids work their way up through lesser venues to the big leagues. The number "It's All Happening" had a very different resonance that time.
Even though it was announced as a limited Broadway run, I was sure it would be around for a long time, not just 21 previews and 173 regular performances. At least I still have my memories, my cast album, and my hopes for either a revival or a production from the local private school in the tiny Hawaii town where I now live -- I'm down for either one.
Have you ever traveled to see one of your favorite shows? Tell us in the comments!
Tara Ariano is the cofounder and West Coast editor of Previously.TV
Photo by Joan Marcus