Hamilton is often credited for being this incredible, new take on the musical format. Talk to anyone who doesn’t know much about Broadway, and chances are, they cite Hamilton as one of their favorites because of its blend of rap and r&b style music on a musical stage. What people don’t realize, however, is that there are so many underrated musicals that have been written with similar style and flair. Years before Hamilton, Venice opened in Kansas City – a dystopian rap musical mirroring Shakespeare’s Othello. Lin Manuel Miranda had even been doing this pre-Hamilton when he wrote In The Heights in 2005.
The most overlooked, however, and criminally so, is Bring It On. The show, which opened in 2011 and was loosely based on the 2000 movie of the same name, was also written by Miranda just before starting work on Hamilton. As a lover of both Broadway and pop music, the show hits an interesting blend of huge showy ensemble numbers, while still keeping an interesting flair worked in with the revamped story.
The score, when first released, sat in a rather uncomfortable spot for most audience members. It was too showtune-y to be a hip hop musical, but too hip hop to be traditional. It does not push either direction particularly far but exists as a strange intermediary musical that was ahead of its time. Audiences were not ready for it when it first premiered, as with many of the other precursors in the similar genre, but hindsight allows us to look back on it and realize just how inventive the soundtrack truly was.
Bring It On borrows from the movie plot but makes its own way as it follows Campbell as she transfers from Truman High School, where she has been voted captain of the cheer team, to Jackson High School. The musical is in an interesting position where it has two composers: Tom Kitt (Next To Normal) wrote half of the score when Campbell is in Truman and Lin-Manuel Miranda when she is in Jackson. The difference is clear, but the wow-factor remains the same. The songs are energetic, full of acrobatics, and of course: cheer.
The cheer stunts make or break the show. While the Broadway run ended years ago, the show has since toured and can be seen running in various local community theatres. While the soundtrack is phenomenal, and arguably rivals Hamilton in terms of song quality alone, Bring It On was made for the stage. It is just as much about the dance as it is the song, so if you ever get the chance to see it live, do it. You won’t regret it.