| Stage |

Bring It On: Go, Team, Go!

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The setup:

Gimme an F! Gimme a U! Gimme an N! Gimme me a T-I-M-E!! What does it spell? How about a brand-new hip musical about high school cheerleaders that's a whole lot better than the premise: a new musical about high school cheerleaders. I'm not kidding. At the end, you'll be cheering.

The execution:

Borrowing only the title of the bubbly teen movie that starred Kirsten Dunst (2000) and its subsequent franchise of four straight-to-DVD releases, this sparkly new stage treatment, presented locally by Theatre Under the Stars, reinvigorates the genre that has witnessed the more white-bread High School Musical and TV mega-hit Glee. This is the work of extremely high-powered Broadway talents -- director/choreographer Andy Blankenbuehlor, composer/lyricists Lin-Manuel Miranda and Tom Kitt, librettist Jeff Whitty and co-lyricist Amanda Green. The musical's sass and grit (and its precisely crafted genes) come directly from Avenue Q, In the Heights and Next to Normal. We're still in high school fantasy land, but the finger-snap attitude is mighty refreshing and downright exhilarating.

After an introductory detour, the creators have wisely chosen to integrate the original story and plopped our preppy heroine Campbell (Taylor Louderman) and stubby sidekick Bridget (Ryann Redmond) into an inner-city school where they immediately become the outsiders. Bridget has so little self-esteem, she has nowhere else to go but up. The musical takes flight when hottie Danielle (Adrienne Warren) and her posse Nautica (Ariana DeBose) and drag queen La Cienega (Gregory Haney) roar into view. Everything at this new high school dances: rows of lockers, projection screens, light cues. The place fires up as Campbell is given a life lesson in attitude.

The magic of it all is that there's not much to any of it, yet it makes such a pleasant impression. The story's older than MGM, and there are absolutely no surprises in the routine plot. Act II sputters with too many subplots and an anthem that could be excised, but the characters are so delicious -- and deliciously delineated -- that we put up with the repetition just to stay acquainted with them a little longer. It's the details of the telling that make this musical so much fun, especially the game cast, who throw themselves, literally, into the cheerleading.

The acrobatics blaze with daredevilry as the tumblers seem to be shot out of cannons as they're launched skyward. There are back flips, tricky releases and basket catches galore, accomplished with unflagging energy that would be the envy of any Olympic gymnast, while the hip-hop movement throughout is incredibly smooth and slinky. This is a high school musical with flawless skin, as only Broadway with its urban glamour could possibly imagine it.

The verdict:

This world-premiere musical is on a six-month tour prior to a projected Broadway run. If the athletically inclined cast can make it safely through these preliminaries, there's no reason they can't get to the finals. Go, team, go!

Vault, jump, and soar with Bring It On through February 5 at The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby. Purchase tickets online at www.tuts.com or call 713-558-8887. $24-$114.

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