Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 28, No. 40, Ed. 1 Friday, February 17, 2012 Page: 38 of 56
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Jeff Whitty will probably spend the rest of his
life living down the legacy of creating the musi-
cal that turned Muppets ... sorry, puppets —
into sexed-up losers. Avenue Q became the sur-
prise hit of the 2003-04 Broadway season,
sweeping the Tony Awards (including one for
Whitty's book) and forever changing our view
of Sesame Street.
One of Whitty's collaborators on Q went on to
co-write The Book of Mormon, but Whitty himself
has been busy as well, opening two musicals in
the past 13 months, including the cheerleading
comedy Bring It On: The Musical, which opened
this week at Fair Park.
The gay librettist, who is also an actor (he's in
rehearsals to appear in a play he wrote, in which
he'll star in drag — a first) chatted about his love
of cheerleading, his failed promise never to do
another musical and the filthiest show heS ever
Gay 'Ave. Q' scribe Jeff Whitty
builds a pyramid of laughs in
cheer-full musical 'Bring It On'
—Arnold Wayne Jones
BRING IT ON
Fair Park Music Hall, 901 First
Ave. Th roug h Feb.26.
Ad placement deadline for Classy • Defining Homes is February 27th.
the librettist never
hears: My favorite
thing about Avenue
Q is not actually on
the cast recording, it's the name of a character, Miss
Thistletwat. Jeff Whitty: Thank you. I was in Paris with
one of the [French] producers and we had this great
lunch with champagne at 1 in the afternoon and every-
thing. I asked her, "How did you translate the name of
Miss Thistletwat?" She got really embarrassed, but she
told me; it would translate as, like, Miss Grassmuncher,
which [is slang there] for lesbian.
I also love when Kate fingers Princeton. That's the
audience's fault — they are putting that in, I don't actu-
ally say it. There are actually only 13 swear words in Av-
enue Q, and they are carefully placed — like five
"fucks", one "pussy" and four "shits".... By the way, I've
seen four international productions of Avenue Q and
Paris was the filthiest. Kate rimmed Princeton. Even to
me, that's a little much.
Since last year, you've opened two other musi-
cals: Tales of the City and Bring It On, which is now
in Dallas. I didn't want to do another musical after Av-
enue Q after learning how hard they are. I said no to
everything for quite a while. Then on a plane to London
[while watching DVDs of the miniseries Tales of the
City], suddenly a bolt of lightning struck that said there
could be this really chewy, big musical made out this
material. I know Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters [who co-
wrote the score] and we opened last spring. The show
was not finished and we didn't have enough previews to
nail it, but we're figuring out what the next step for that
show will be.
Your colleagues on Bring It On are composer-lyri-
cist Lin-Manuel Miranda, who did the barrio hip-hop
musical In the Heights, and Tom Kitt, who com-
posed Next to Normal, a musical about mental ill-
ness. Who said, "Wow, those guys would make a
great team to write a musical about cheerleadinc
It's a funny story, how that evolved. I have been wanting
to do a cheerleading musical since 2004. Real athletic
cheerleading is amazing to watch, if you see it on
ESPN; plus, it has a built-in performance component
that is so helpful in a musical. A cheerleading structure is
perfect and it's something you can see live that a lot of
CHEER UP | Whitty swore off writing musicals —
but changed his mind to take on two new ones.
My agent knew [of my interest] and told me about
Bring It On; I said "Sign me up!" I'd never done a movie
adaptation but I was totally onboard. Plus at the first
meeting, the [producers] said they'd be interested in
doing an original story instead of basing it on the first
movie or one of the four [direct-to-video] sequels, so this
was a huge opportunity. [Director] Andy Blankenbuehler
had choreographed In the Heights [so he had worked
with Lin-Manuel]. So that's how that came together.
t's a different style for you, too, not just Miranda
and Kitt. Yes, Tales is full of angel dust, pot-smoking
and child pornographers and Avenue Q is called the
"potty-mouthed puppet musical." So I really wanted to
do a musical I could bring my nieces to. There are these
warnings of sexual content, but really?
All three of the musicals have been excruciating. You
have to get all of these disparate parts to have this one
sensibility and have cohesion. I was working with great
collaborators [in Bring It On], people I loved to be in the
room with. When they start to click they are truly excit-
ing. It's been a great
Here's a very gay question: Among you, Miranda
and Kitt, who has the bigger Tony Award? You ever
whipped 'em out and compared? They actually made
the stand bigger since I won! But I'd say Tom [Kitt] wins,
because he has a Pulitzer, too.
Where do you keep your Tony? I have this trophy
collection I pick up from flea markets — weird, old stuff,
like senior body building trophies. So my Tony sits
among all those.
You're the only gay guy on the creative team for
Bring It On. Do you still like to gay it up? It is a mu-
sical, after all. Absolutely, I always try to put gay char-
acters in my shows. I didn't wanna go with a cliche in
Bring It On, but without giving anything away, you'll see
there's a character there that's definitely a first-of-her-
kind in a musical. I found a fresh take.
Here’s what’s next.
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Wright, John. Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 28, No. 40, Ed. 1 Friday, February 17, 2012, newspaper, February 17, 2012; Dallas, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth239207/m1/38/: accessed January 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.