When we last left Byram Hills High School grad Tom Kitt, he was arranging music for Green Day’s American Idiot after having won a Pulitzer for Next to Normal. He’s returned to Broadway with the high-flying cheerleaders of Bring It On.
This seems like the opposite of Next to Normal. What made you want to get involved? I love musical comedy, and Bring It On is a natural fit for a musical. But I also felt there was something emotional in the story, especially being set in the world of high school—high school is a loaded time for everybody. So even though the emotions are different than Next to Normal, there was still something moving about Bring It On, and it brought out a lot of feeling.
You worked on the music with Lin-Manuel Miranda of In the Heights. How are your styles different, and how were you able to combine them? It was wonderful to feed off each other. We started by doing the first number together, and we tried to capture that cheer energy in that electronic/pop world. Then we wrote the songs for the Jackson school, and he has that hip-hop vernacular that comes into play—he’s a virtuoso at it. But we wanted to make sure that every song had character development, and by the end it morphed so that it felt like Lin-Manuel, [co-lyricist] Amanda Green, and I all wrote the score together as one piece.
The musical is partially about finding what you love to do in high school. What was your big extracurricular at Byram Hills? I was into music, so I performed in the musicals. But I was also into sports, and I did soccer and baseball. I guess I was like the character of Randall in that I didn’t really do just one thing; I tried to run in all the different crowds.
Next month, the movie Pitch Perfect comes out, and you also worked on that. Were you already familiar with that a cappella world? I was in an a capella group at Columbia, and I’ve been wanting to do something about a cappella groups for a long time. My friend [and director] Jason Moore told me about the movie, and I told him I had to work on it. I arranged songs with people who live on the West Coast and work on The Sing-Off. One set piece that I worked on and am particularly proud of is the ‘riff-off,’ where you have to ‘steal’ songs by singing another song with the same lyric in a certain category. From the trailer, it looks like it really came off.
Bring It On is currently playing at the St. James Theatre.