by Sheila Watko
What happens when you cross Bring It On with Scream, add an incredible girl power cast and throw in some Broadway-pop music for good measure? You get We Are The Tigers, the new musical from Preston Max Allen (directed by Michael Bello) currently playing at Theatre 80 St. Marks in the East Village.
We Are The Tigers follows a cheerleading team made up of the eternally upbeat captain Riley (Lauren Zakrin), tough girl Cairo (Wonu Ogunfowora), new recruit Mattie (Cathy Ang), party girl Farrah (Zoe Jensen) and her goody-two-shoes sister Annleigh (Kaitlyn Frank), rival-squad-member-turned-teammate Eva (Sydney Parra), former mascot Reese (Mimi Scardulla) and down-to-earth Kate (Jenny Rose Baker), who is only on the squad to spend time with her best friend Chess (Celeste Rose) before Chess graduates. As the girls meet at Riley’s house for a sleepover to discuss their upcoming cheer season, a string of events takes the night from spirited to sinister. Who’s killing off members of the team one by one? Did a murderer break in the house . . . or is it one of the Tigers?
I honestly loved everything about this show: the music is great, the cast’s vocals are fantastic and the set looks exactly like a house in a teen horror movie. I laughed out loud a lot and I may have teared up twice. After the first song, “Worst Team Ever,” I exchanged looks with the stranger next to me. He said, “Wow, that was really good!” and I enthusiastically agreed. Most of the characters are intentionally a bit exaggerated, but anyone who’s been in high school will recognize them. Jensen manages to make drunken Farrah, who could easily be grating, into a sympathetic character who just wants to fit in. Reese is always forced to be the mascot because of her size even though she knows she’s so much more, and Scardulla will break your heart and then put it right back together with her seriously impressive dance moves. As a former Catholic school girl myself, I got a kick out of Frank’s performance as Annleigh, who’s saving herself for marriage but fighting temptation with her boyfriend Clark (Louis Griffin) in the kitchen during “Forever.” Ang is especially hilarious as Mattie and has a fantastic smash cut to open the second act.
Other standout numbers include Baker and Rose’s “Skype Tomorrow” (which will hit close to home for anyone who’s ever worried about falling out of touch with a friend) Scardulla backed up by the whole cast in “Captain of the Team” Ogunfowora and Zakrin in “Wallflower” Ogunfowora with the rest of the cast in “Defense” and the tearjerker “Move On” featuring Baker, Frank, Jensen, Rose and Griffin.
I was truly impressed with We Are The Tigers from the relatable characters to the beautiful sets to the powerful songs, and with its ability to combine humor and horror. I don’t know how the creative team translated the late 90s/early 2000s teen movie vibe to the stage, but it was perfect, effective and even made me feel a little nostalgic. Teenagers and adults alike will love this show, which I highly recommend seeing.
We Are The Tigers. Through April 17 at Theatre 80 St Marks (80 St. Marks Place, between First and Second Avenues). www.tigersmusical.com
Photos: Mati Gelman