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We Are the Tigers

This witty high school cheerleader musical gets sidetracked by slasher murder mystery elements. It has a lively score, a winning cast and a cool production.

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MiMi Scardulla, Jenny Rose Baker, Wonu Ogunfowora, Lauren Zakrin and Kaitlyn Frank in a scene from the new musical “We Are the Tigers” at Theater 80 (Photo credit: Mati Gelman)

[avatar user=”Darryl Reilly” size=”96″ align=”left” ] Darryl Reilly, Critic[/avatar]For its first 30 minutes the high school cheerleader musical We Are the Tigers is quite promising. We get an appealing cross section of archetypal characters, bouncy songs and vibrant staging on a terrific set. It appears that we’re in for a thoughtful and spirited exploration of familiar adolescent territory. Ah, but it’s billed as “A killer new musical” and so the overbaked plot then develops. Two girls are mysteriously stabbed to death and the boyfriend of one is accidentally killed by one of the girls.

A consensus forms that if the group simply informs the police everyone will be embroiled in a lengthy criminal investigation that will sidetrack their activities.  They decide to frame one of the girls who has drunkenly passed out. She confesses, goes to prison and life purposefully goes on. The murder mystery is eventually and dramatically solved. “I just wanted to cheer, and people died.”

What might have made for a smart contained campy spoof is padded out to a jumbled drawn out work lasting two hours and ten minutes including an intermission. It’s an accomplished though frustrating exercise, ultimately making little impact.

The show’s talented mastermind is Preston Max Allen. Mr. Allen’s rollicking score is a pounding collection of catchy pop and showtune melodies matched with sharp lyrics. Allen’s well-crafted  book is comical, suspenseful and problematic. However, there’s too much of it. The characters are all cleverly fleshed out, the milieu is authentically rendered, but the rambling structure is a drag.

The charismatic senior Riley is the captain of the perennially losing Tigers football team’s cheerleaders. She’s holding a slumber party at her home in a gated community to start off the season with bonding and new rules. In attendance are her multiracial and diverse compatriots who range in size, sexuality and temperament. Some are abusing alcohol and opioids. The violence is a puzzlement. Was it an outsider or one of the cheerleaders? A pizza delivery person is among the red herrings and numerous other tangents. The murdered trio periodically reappears as ghosts.

The cast of the new musical “We Are the Tigers” at Theater 80 (Photo credit: Mati Gelman)

Vivacious Lauren Zakrin is sensational as the imperious Riley. The dynamic company of Cathy Ang, Jenny Rose Baker, Kaitlyn Frank, Zoe Jensen, Wonu Ogunfowora, Sydney Parra, Celeste Rose and MiMi Scardulla all gleefully offer richly detailed characterizations as the rest of the cheerleaders and have their moments of glory. Louis Griffin is delightfully wholesome as the unfortunate boyfriend.

Director Michael Bello’s energetic staging injects as much scope, momentum and visual flourishes as possible given the wayward material. Katherine Roarty’s joyous choreography has several rousing numbers showcasing the ensemble’s individual dancing skills, particularly Ms. Scardulla’s.

Scenic designer Ann Beyersdorfer‘s grand setup cleverly creates the illusion of the sunken basement used as the cheerleader’s clubhouse. Raised up are sections showing the bathroom, kitchen and front door with an adjacent picture window that has lush trees on view outside.

Jamie Roderick’s charged lighted design deftly conveys whimsey and menace with its textured gradations. Sound designer Josh Liebert perfectly balances the blend of music, singing and crashing effects. Heather Carey’s fabulously sly costume design chiefly consists of nifty cheerleading outfits.

Tangled up within We Are the Tigers is a jocular entertainment.

We Are the Tigers (through April 17, 2019)

Midnight Theatricals

Theater 80, 80 St. Mark’s Place, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit

Running time: two hours and ten minutes including one intermission

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