My Broadway Musical Closes in a Few Hours. Why Am I Grateful?


CAMPBELL: Why didn’t someone tell me that seventeen years ago?
RANDALL: You had a lot on your plate. Babies usually do.

This scene (continued below) is from "Bring It On: The Musical," which ends its Broadway run in a few hours. I rewrote that scene several dozen times over about three and-a-half years. The scene is pivotal in Act Two, taking place at a point when our lead character Campbell makes a major mistake: her ambition leads to a near-unforgivable betrayal of the people closest to her. And the only friend left to listen is her buddy Randall.

The scene as it exists in the Broadway version is brand-new to the production. After a premiere run in Atlanta, "Bring It On" launched a national tour in the Fall of 2011 -- and still the show wasn't finished. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to feel effortless, and some of the effort still showed.

For many reasons I was at a personal low point when the creative team launched into revisions for the Broadway run. A crisis of confidence, for starters. And the Act Two scene between Campbell and Randall wasn't working yet -- it still felt sentimental. Obvious. It was a lull, and didn't match the beautiful song it accompanied. So I rewrote the scene top-to-bottom. It became a conversation with myself to get out of my depression. I brought the new scene in during a creative meeting at director/choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler's dance studio. We all read it aloud, and it worked. It barely got a rewrite.

In the scene, I removed any specifics so it could read cleanly, out of context, and be about anybody.

CAMPBELL: This may sound dumb: but my whole life I felt like I had this one shot. One lifetime as me. And I see so many people wasting all their potential. Just letting life go by. You know?


CAMPBELL: -- and I don’t want to be them. I don’t want to look back and feel sorry when I’m old. So I fought it, I worked so hard, but my life just crumbled anyway.
RANDALL: And then you got all crazy.
CAMPBELL: I so did.
(A moment.)

RANDALL: You know, I think life is way longer than it may feel right now.
CAMPBELL: That’s scary.
RANDALL Be grateful.
CAMPBELL: I don’t know how to fix all this.
RANDALL: Maybe you’ll figure it out tomorrow. And for now, just take a look at that view. Just -- look. Take a breath. And --
(He gestures at the vista. Campbell takes it in, realizing --)

CAMPBELL: It’s -- spectacular.

RANDALL: Despite any evidence to the contrary: so are you. Know that.

CAMPBELL: And you.

RANDALL (offering his hand): Take a breath.

CAMPBELL (taking it): Take a breath.
(They take a breath together.) 

"Be grateful."

This is an intentional quote of a gospel song whose message says everything. (DJ Tex Sage ended a small dance party with it on May 1, 2012, and it brought me to tears of the "Oh my God, exactly" variety.) Give a listen -- it starts small and then, well, Lynette Hawkins takes it home.

Do I wish "Bring It On" ran now and forever? Of course I do. So I am sad -- but I am grateful.

I am grateful for the geniuses I got to work with. My love begins with the core group who sat in our hundreds and hundreds of hours of creative meetings -- Andy Blankenbuehler, Alex Lacamoire, Amanda Green, Tom Kitt, Lin-Manuel Miranda -- and extends undiminished to our incredible cast, our brilliant designers and associates and assistants, our amazing and generous producers, our musicians, our backstage crew, and the staffs of the many theaters who hosted us along the way.

And I am grateful that finally, on Broadway, the show found an effortless and invisible groove. To make the show consistently entertaining -- surprising and bouncy and unobvious -- nearly killed us all. But the show at last said something with a quiet force. From the start, I wanted "Bring It On" to be about the discovery of a Bohemian sensibility. Self-expression above all. Charles Isherwood of the New York Times enjoyed bandying about the word "featherweight" when describing the show. I dismiss that outright. The show is about dreams not coming true. It's about disappointment. It's about how fucked up people get and how they can recover. It has an ethical spine. I'm one of the writers, but I consider it a parable of weight. It's just told with cheerleaders.

Isherwood also found fault with the fact that La Cienega, our transgender high school student, is simply accepted and her trans status is never directly addressed. (I should also mention that in both reviews he called her a "drag queen.") But in our Bohemian world of Jackson High School, there's no other choice. And the audience loved the lack of attention paid to her supposed "outsider" status. It created a degree of  suspense that was only relieved by a wordless moment in Act Two that I don't have the ability to describe. But it provoked a guaranteed scream of delight from the audience, every time. Is the American public ready to accept a transgender person as a friend? The curtain call for Gregory Haney said everything, night after night.

I leave for the closing performance in 45 minutes and then bolt for a plane to Tennessee. I have to figure out what to wear, now, and stop my reflecting for a bit.

CAMPBELL: I think about myself then, and it’s like looking back at a whole other person. I kinda feel bad for her.
DANIELLE What do you mean?
CAMPBELL: I woke up this morning and that ambition -- it wasn’t in me any more. For that trophy. I’m not sure I recognize myself now. And it’s kind of okay. Scary. But okay.

Now and forever? Bah. I'm grateful. Yes I am. Thanks to everybody on this journey.