When Lin-Manuel Miranda wishes your musical a happy closing, you know it’s something special
The setting: It’s Sunday afternoon before the final performance of “Bring It On: The Musical” at the Selma Arts Center. The cast, crew and creative team gather in the theater before the house opens. Among them is director Michael Flores, who has heard rumblings of some sort of “video gift” but is unprepared for what happens next.
The mood in the room: All local theater is special, but sometimes a show achieves a kind of breakthrough chemistry that elevates both those in it and the community that comes to see it. Over the past two weekends of the sold-out run, audiences have flocked to Selma for this ambitious production. This cast has bonded together, and you can feel the electricity between them.
The first surprise: The words come on the screen as the video starts: “A Message from New York City.” And then appears Taylor Louderman, currently starring in “Mean Girls” on Broadway, who originated the leading role of Campbell in the original Broadway production of “Bring It On.” “Congratulations on a fantastic run,” she says. She rattles off the first names of the members of the creative team (including Flores for making his directorial debut), then offers her best wishes to the cast and crew.
Related stories: Line up for it: An ambitious ‘Bring It On’ soars in Selma (July 28)
And: How to play a cheerleader in ‘Bring It On’? For Selma cast, it meant going to camp (July 20)
The second surprise: We hear him before we see him. “How do you know who we are until we cross the line?” the voice sings a capella. Then Lin-Manuel Miranda, who co-wrote the music and lyrics for “Bring It On” — before going on to create a little old musical called “Hamilton” — pops into the frame. “Selma, heard you killed it!” he exclaims. (A little bird named Dominic told me that Miranda had read the review of the show when they spoke Sunday morning.)
The reaction: Gasps. Stunned looks. Flores, who has devoted many months to this project, has his hands cupped over his mouth throughout, eyes wide so he won’t miss anything, like someone on a game show who just learned he won “a brand new car!” The Miranda moment causes him to fling his arms forward momentarily, then it’s back to stunned-hands-covering-lower-part-of-face overwhelmedness.
The backstory: The video was “organized with lots of love and magic” by Caitlin Stahl and Dominic Grijalva (a friend and colleague of Miranda’s), Flores tells me later.
The reaction: “I was completely shocked!” Flores adds. “I was not expecting to see these Broadway icons send greetings to me and to the cast. We all had to watch it more than once before letting it sink in! It was the perfect way to get the energy and motivation going before closing what turned out to be a sold out run. We are incredibly thankful to our audiences for all the love and support. During the last performance you can feel the casts’ energy throughout the theater. It was a magical closing.”
What’s next: As for Flores’ next project, he can’t say much yet because the season hasn’t been announced. “But let’s just say I am thrilled to be directing again and it’s a show that has been drawn to me since I saw it for the first time. I’m really drawn to the collaboration and innovation that’s becoming a trademark at the Selma Arts Center, and we have a few more ideas in the works together that I can’t wait to share.”