Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Review: "Bring It On! The Musical" and "Dr. Seuss's How The Grinch Stole Christmas - The Musical"

Two Broadway musicals for the holidays - Yay! Photos courtesy of SHNSF
Jazz up your 2011 holidays with two great musicals! Between the bionic acrobatics of Bring It On! The Musical and the lunatic antics of the Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas - The Musical, December's been an exciting time to go out and take some Broadway time off traditional festivities. Here's my review of both.

Bring It On! The Musical
Adrienne Warren and Bring It On Company.
Photo courtesy of SHNSF
If the Black Eyed Peas decided to remake High School Musical with the cast of Legally Blonde and Dreamgirls with some bad-ass attitude, they might end up with Bring It On!, a musical where hip hop dance moves and Olympic flips steal the show.  

On opening night last week, the crowd went wild at the Orpheum Theater and at the end of their two-hour stint, the performers got a well-deserved standing ovation for impossible cheer leading feats.

The musical is not only about cheer leading - it is adapted from a movie called "Bring It On" and on opening night, the audience counted more than a few babes in cheer leading outfits. "Wow, total fan gear" I thought to myself, "Far out!" Only to realize on SHN: Broadway in San Francisco's Facebook page that the babes were the actual cheer leading team of the 49ers, the Raiderettes! So there, it's a cheer leading musical approved and recommended by the real deal.

Hold on a minute, slow down. What if you're not a cheer leading buff? What if you don't watch ESPN ever and don't know your athletic moves?  What if - God forbid - you haven't seen the movie? What if you don't even care about cheer leading? Since that's basically me, I can assure you'll still have a good time. Here is partially why.



The moves, folks, the bionic moves! Bring It On! may not shine by its bright plot or its chart-topping music but the choreography and high-energy performers make it one of the most entertaining musicals I've seen in a long time. Just imagine, as soon as the lights go down, a complex pyramid of flexible humans forming squadron-type figures and two girls who suddenly shoot up in the air like they were blasted from the stage. That's when the gasping begins.

Gregory Haney. Photo courtesy of SHNSF
You'll gasp too. It's impossible not to gasp when a girl does another death-defying leap, flips through mid-air, arches her back vigorously and lands flat on four manly hands. There's a reason the oldest performer is only 24 years old! The rehearsals must have a lot more in common with a strong circus gymnastics routine than a dainty charm school.

This being San Francisco, one of the wildest ovations went to Gregory Haney who plays a tongue-in-cheek bold transgender cheer leader named La Cienega - frankly one of the best characters in the show. As unrealistic as a queer cheer leader sounds, La Cienega gives the musical an edge that spices up the white pop blandness of Taylor High or the perfectly cool hip-hop Jackson High. The two competing schools are just a tad too clich├ęd and a few underdogs go a long way in adding character. However as I wrote earlier, who cares? You're not going for the Pulitzer-prize winning story. You're going for the sheer fun of an athletic slice of Americana.

Details
  • Until Jan. 7, 2012 at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco 
  • Address: 1192 Market Street (@8th Street)
  • Running time: 2:30 with a 20 minute intermission
  • Not recommended to kids under age 10 (I have to agree with that)
  • Website for tickets:  http://www.shnsf.com/shows/BringItOn
How The Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical
Stefan Karl as The Grinch with Seth Bazacas as Young Max.
Photo courtesy of SHNSF
Who would have thought the Grinch could be such a cool and attractive villain that kids would cheer him on despite his robbing the citizens of Whoville of their rightful Christmas? I've read the Dr. Seuss book many times to my kids and that stinky old Grinch on paper is not a guy you want to meet. Yet when you go see the musical, prepare to be surprised.

After our performance of the Grinch at the Golden Gate Theater, the Grinch showed up in the lobby and all the kids massively rushed to him for hugs, photos, Christmas-stealing advice and more naughty tricks. A razzle-dazzle kind of bad guy, this Grinch works the audience like Aladdin's flashy Genie gives you the Broadway take on serfdom and the result is hundreds of laughing and cheering young kids asking for more. We went with an 8-year old friend of my girls who kept raving about the Grinch after the show was over. Yeah, that's how popular this Grinch is.

Cleverly the inhabitants of Whoville are as insufferably righteous, enthusiastic and sugary, only redeemed by the young Cindy Lou - played by a 9-year old - who is completely adorably cute. Both my girls wanted to be her or wanted to have a Cindy Lou just like her. How she manages not to be scared when confronted with the Grinch, now that beats me. She is a brave little girl.

Beyond brave girls and naughty Grinches, what made the show really unique for the audience was the sets. A combination of hand-drawn black and white flats and full color props, they looked like they were giant pop-ups of the book's pages. In unison, the Whoville costumes were over-the-top pink and red and the Grinch very much green and hairy.

Grinch company final scene. Photo courtesy of SHNSF
By remaining faithful to the book yet adding that Broadway sound and pizzaz, the musical is a hit for all ages. Apart from a toddler who cried when the Grinch appeared, all kids had a whale of a time during the show and even skeptical older kids couldn't help rooting for Cindy Lou, the Grinch and the Grinch's dog.

If you're a Dr. Seuss fan, a fan of shows where the villain is the star or a fan of well-executed Broadway musicals, this one's for you and your family. It only runs for a few more days. Catch it before it's gone!

Details

  • Through December 31, 2011 in San Francisco at the Golden Gate Theatre 
  • Address: 1 Taylor Street (@Market)
  • Running time: 1 hour and 20 minutes with no intermission
  • Appropriate for all ages
  • Website for tickets:  http://www.shnsf.com/shows/Grinch

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