BWW Interviews: DEBUT OF THE MONTH: BRING IT ON's Warren & Louderman
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by Caryn Robbins
Adrienne Warren and Taylor Louderman are currently making their Broadway debuts in BRING IT ON: THE MUSICAL, which began previews on July 12th at the St. James Theatre. The team behind the production includes a collaboration of some of Broadway's most acclaimed, award-winning creators. With an original book by Tony Award winner Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q), music and lyrics by Tony Award-winning composer Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights), music by Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning composer Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) and lyrics by Broadway lyricist Amanda Green (High Fidelity), this new musical is directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Andy Blankenbuehler (In the Heights). BRING IT ON tells the story of the challenges and unexpected bonds that form through the thrill of extreme cheerleading competition.
The talented actresses chatted with BWW about how they manage to sing, dance, act and perform high-flying acrobatic stunts in this new, exciting Broadway production.
Adrienne Warren originated the role of 'Bring It On's 'Danielle' at Atlanta's ALLIANCE THEATRE followed by the national tour. Her theater credits include Lorrell in Dreamgirls (NAACP Theatre Award nominee, Apollo/U.S. tour) and The Wiz (Encores!). Her EP is currently available on iTunes.
I have to start by asking how you are able to pull off your role so well while at the same time, execute what appear to be rather dangerous stunts.
Well, lots of practice for one! I think in this cast we have such a camaraderie, we're such a team and you really have to trust your castmates and know that no matter what, everyone is aware of each other. Safety is first with our company, and just knowing that they have you, no matter what - even if you fall, someone is going to catch you. In fact, when someone is doing a move we have a rule, if you see someone coming down, even if they're across the stage, you have permission to run and catch them. So knowing that feels good and you always feel confident that when you're in the air you're going to be okay.
Did it take time to develop that trust?
Yeah, it did. I remember a couple of years ago when we first started in the workshop and we were kind of just learning how to do cheer stunts, I was petrified. I had just met these people and I was standing on their hands, and I was nervous. But after the years have gone by and after watching the professional cheerleaders in our cast, that is one of the best ways to learn how to do cheerleading and be confident in it. They are some of the best teachers I've every had. So I think that's really a plus for this show.
Were the competitive cheerleaders involved at all in the choreography?
They weren't involved in the choreography, but we do have a cheer coordinator and they were there to help us learn the techniques. Because they have been doing this for years and it's something that you can't really learn in one trial. You can do it in one trial, but to really be confident in it, they give you the little tips and tricks here and there that will help you stay confident and solid.
Were you a cheerleader or a gymnast in high school?
I played basketball and I ran track in high school, and my dad is an ex-football player and he never let me try out for cheering. I had lots of friends who were cheerleaders.
Did you have an opinion of the cheerleaders?
You know, a lot of the cheerleaders were my friends. Until being in BRING IT ON, I never thought cheerleading was really a sport. I never paid much attention to it. And my dad always joked and said, 'Don't try out for cheerleading. You can't go to the Olympics with it.' And now, I think there is an Olympics cheering or they're working on it. There's so many things that I think the public is unaware of that goes along with cheerleading. Before I got to this show, I used to joke around with my cheerleading friends in high school and say, 'Oh cheerleading is not a sport, you guys just get to look cute in the skirt.' And they used to actually put their cheerleading skirts on me because I was so anti-cheerleading. They would laugh and joke and try to teach me things, and I would look ridiculous. So now all my friends are kind of laughing because it's just ironic that me, the girls who was totally anti-cheerleading, is now in a cheerleading musical, doing stunts that they never even learned to do. And now I go to my dad and say, "See, cheerleading is a sport, look at all these saddle wounds!"
And does he concede?
Yeah, he still gives me a hard time about it, but he definitely agrees.
Were you familiar with the 'Bring It On' movies before you became involved in the show?
Of course, who wasn't! The 'Bring It On' movies are so much fun and great. I was really familiar with the first one because I was a big Gabrielle Union fan. That was really the only one I was really familiar with.
How did you get cast in the role of 'Danielle'?
I was on tour with 'Dreamgirls', the one that started at the Apollo a couple of years ago, and I got a call from (choreographer) Andy Blankenbuehler. I had worked with him at City Center at Encores out of college. I was doing 'The Wiz' with him and I had done the first reading of 'Bring It On' and I remember thinking, 'Man, who's he going to find to play these roles? This is crazy, they have to flip and stunt.' I thought it was nearly impossible to do a show like this. And then, lo and behold, I get a phone call from Andy and he said, 'Hey, I can't find anyone to play this part, are you interested?' And he tricked me. I tell him now that he tricked me because he said in his phone call, 'Oh, you know, it's a nice part, you have like a song." and I didn't know until I came to rehearsal. I was thinking it was a supporting role, it would be fun, but I didn't know until I got there that this is what I was going in for! So yeah, I came in and sang for the producers and I got the job.
Can you relate to your character on some levels?
Yeah, I do. You know Danielle is a very hard-working girl. She is way cooler than I ever was in high school and she's kind of the "it" girl and everyone wants to be her friend. She is really nice and open about everything, but just don't cross her in a negative way or disrespect her and you'll never have any problems with her or her crew. I think that's amazing and I actually really look up to her for that. But I would say that we both are extremely hard-working people, and I think she's very ambitious and so am I. And she's someone that no matter what, will never let her past get in her way, or whatever her circumstances are and I like to think that I'm that same person who really, really works hard to get to the next level, no matter where I am in life.
From the beginning it was so exciting because not only are they amazing people at what they do, but they're just incredible people, very personable, great to approach. I always felt comfortable coming up to them and asking questions. And they have really kept us involved in this process in creating this show, which was really exciting for me because I started the show when I was quite young, like a year out of college, and so for them to trust the actors and our instincts was just amazing. They are just so much fun to be around, period. I was nervous of course, everyone is nervous when they walk into a room and see Lin-Manuel Miranda and Tom Kitt! And I remember I used to have a rap in the show and I was so nervous about that rap and I literally put my tape recorder in front of Lin-Manuel Miranda's mouth and was like, 'please do this for me!' I studied him rapping and it's just been such a joy and they're so inspiring and great with all of us. I couldn't ask for a better team to work with.
It's funny you said that, because when I was watching the performers who do rap in the show, I could just hear Lin-Manuel Miranda's voice coming through!
Yeah yeah. Absolutely!
One of the things I really loved about the show is the great messages it conveys.
Yes. I think 'Bring It On' is already such a special show and it's really an event. You're coming to see an event. And I think what people don't expect are the messages that we have and they don't expect to feel so much heart from the show. You will laugh, you will cry, you will be filled with joy, and that's what makes this show so special. Some of the themes that we have are winning isn't everything, the importance of friendship, doing your own thing, being comfortable in your own skin, accepting people for who they are. There are so many things in this show that ring universal, that no matter what age you are, no matter what background you come from, you can find something that you can relate to and that will touch you in some way, shape or form. And there will be someone character-wise who you can identify with because everyone was in high school at some point, so I think that's what's so fun about it. I think that people in the audience are reliving certain points of their high school experiences and they're laughing and thinking, 'Oh my God, I remember when that happened to me,' 'I remember my first kiss!' So that is really what makes this show so special and cool.
Taylor Louderman joined the national tour of 'Bring It On' in the role of 'Campbell' after completing her sophomore year at the University of Michigan. Her other theater credits include Aida, the Muny's Legally Blonde and Footloose. Her TV and film credits include Shadowland and Alice Upside Down.
I'll start by asking you the same question I asked Adrienne which is, how do you manage to stay in character, act, sing and fly through the air?!
I think I got through the scared stage at the beginning when we were in rehearsals, because there was a time when I'd go up in the air and my face was terrified. I remember when I was first learning I was like peeing in my pants when I first went up. But after awhile, you do it every day and it becomes like just another dance move and so you're able to approach it just the same. It's just part of the show now.
And I'm sure you came to develop a certain amount of trust in your castmates.
Oh yes, absolutely. And that came pretty quickly because the girls are professionals, they know what they're doing. The thing we all learned is that a tough girl never hits ground, which is actually a line in the show. If someone falls, you catch her, no matter what and it's proven to be true every time someone has fallen. I don't think we've had the kind of instance where a tough girl has hit ground, so yes you do trust them.
Was working with competitive cheerleaders intimidating or comforting?
I think a little bit of both. I think it's different at times. I think watching them certainly helps me realize that it's not as scary as my mind thinks it is. I mean they do it like it's nobody's business. You know, they're like adjusting their hair while they're up in the air and making it look so easy, and in that sense it was helpful. I would watch them and think 'Ok, this is how it's supposed to be done.' So they were kind of my research for the show in terms of my character. But then in another sense, if I was struggling, it gets frustrating to have all these people around me like, 'You need to do this and you need to do this and this is what you're doing wrong.' So occasionly it's intimidating, but they're great. They're such nice people and they work hard just like we do, they just have a different strength.
So I assume you did not cheerlead in high school.
No I didn't. I played soccer and basketball in high school. And I think being athletic certainly helps me now. But I didn't touch the cheerleading world at all before this, so it's new to me.
Did you have a preconceived notion about cheerleaders?
Well, I lived in a very small town in the middle of nowhere, so the cheerleading world was very small. So I knew that on some level cheer was very highly respected and cool, but that just wasn't my interest then. So when I heard about this musical I just thought, 'Okay, it's probably just like playing any other sport in high school, because when I was in high school it was cool to be on the basketball team or the dance team or something like that.
Were you familiar with the movies before you took on this role?
Yeah, I watched it when I was younger, I think I was maybe in 5th grade when it first came out. And I haven't watched them again since I got the part. So I didn't really tune in to them for research or anything like that but I knew what they were about. The show stays true to the cheerleading world but in all other aspects it's completely different. And I think people come to the show expecting to see a little bit of the movie and they don't see that, but as the show goes on they're okay with it because they're seeing a totally different story but they get tuned into the new story and then they forget about their expectation of seeing the movie.
How did your casting come about?
It was my sophomore year at the University of Michigan. I was studying musical theater, and the casting director, Rachel Hoffman, actually went to the University of Michigan for musical theater, so she came back and she did workshops and classes. So I think she kind of knew my face but then she sent some interns over the summer while they were testing 'Bring It On' so she just shot me an email during the school year and then I went to New York and flew back a few more time for final callbacks and here I am. So I finished my sophomore year and now I'm taking a break.
Do you find you have things in common with your character?
Oh my goodness, yes! I think from the top of the show it's clear that Campbell, my character, is very passionate about cheerleading and is determined to win Nationals. So she is very passionate about something and has a goal, which is exactly who I was in high school. I was very passionate about musical theater and my goal was to do it on a big scale and that's exactly what Campbell wants to do only with cheerleading. And I also switched high schools between my junior and senior year, Campbell switches her senior year, so I've been a new kid in town as well. I think I pulled a lot from myself to figure out who Campbell was and what her relationships were with other people. So in a sense, I think I'm seeing myself on stage sometimes. But that's also a challenge in itself, you know. I don't think a lot of people do that, it's cool.
What do you think are some of the most important lessons that the show teaches?
I still don't think I've caught every single message that the show has to say, but it talks about reaching for your goals, but then also realizing that it's really about the journey and what you learn along the way and how you grow and less about obtaining your goal. And it's about being comfortable in your own skin, that's the storyline with the character Bridgette. And I think that's a beautiful, beautiful message for the kids who come to see the show. And then there's a message about friendship and how important it is. You know, you can't do it alone and especially for people in high school, it's so important to maintain good relationships with people because they might jump back into your life, you never know. And I think the messages apply to everyone, no matter how old you are. I had an older couple at the stagedoor the other night and they came up to me and said, 'My gosh, we loved the show and we're old!!" and I was like, 'Oh my goodness!" (laugh) But it's true and that's the audience that you don't expect to attract, but it shows that it applies to all different age groups.
What was it like for you to first perform on a Broadway stage?
Oh my God! Well, it's a lot smaller than it was in my dream when I was like five! (laughing) but it's still very magical. It's different than being on tour. On tour it's been more grand. All the theaters are bigger. And I remember performing in my hometown and feeling very similar to the way I did here on Broadway - it's just a really cool feeling. But I love that the audience is so close. I just feel them breathing with me and I can feel them loving or hating characters. It's awesome.
But there's a certain level of reality to what I'm doing. You know it was my dream when I was a little girl but it's real life now. So while it's very cool, and I'm not going to take away from how amazing of an experience it is, it's also a reality. It's a lot of hard work involved and I feel like I've gone through it and here I am. So I'm ready. I'm ready to tackle Broadway!
BRING IT ON: THE MUSICAL is currently playing a limited Broadway engagement at the St. James Theatre, 246 W. 44th St.
Photo Credit: Craig Schwartz