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BANDSTAND


Photo by Jeremy Daniel
Corey Cott & Laura Osnes in Bandstand
Corey Cott & Laura Osnes in Bandstand
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This week marks the penultimate week of the Broadway premiere of Bandstand at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. So, if you haven't made the trip yet, you better get your skates (or your dancing shoes) on and experience the most patriotic show in town, before it's too late! Bandstand is once again our #ShowOfTheWeek!

Before there was “American Idol,” “The Voice,” “The X Factor” or any of the other countless music talent shows that saturate our small screens, there were nationwide radio contests. Bandstand follows one such contest in 1945 that sets out to find America’s next big swing band, but as we discover, this all-swinging and all-singing musical tells a much deeper story in honour of America’s war veterans, who were catapulted back into daily life after witnessing the horrors of war, with no notion of therapy to exorcise their demons.

Richard Oberacker and Rob Taylor’s musical boasts a barrage of stunning, toe-tapping choreography courtesy of Andy Blankenbuehler (who picked up a Tony Award this year for his efforts and who also directs). You might have seen his name before in the playbills of shows like In The Heights and… oh… Hamilton! Blankenbuehler won Tony Awards for his choreography for both those shows too and so is surely running out of space on the mantlepiece by now! And as one of the musical numbers of this show goes, Andy… “You Deserve it”! This one number alone epitomises the joy and creative spectacle of Bandstand and may well be worth the price of admission in itself. If you love swing music from the 1940s, you will be in your very own heaven and the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre is its name.

As happy as I am to sit in my seat, open my jaw wide and marvel at the beautiful music and dancing from that era, you leave the theatre with so much more. Two of Broadways young darlings – two-time Tony nominee Laura Osnes and Corey Cott – have taken on such nuanced roles that must be a gift from above for any actor.

Check out our exclusive interview with Laura Osnes HERE.

Osnes and Cott play Julia Trojan and Donny Novitski - two deeply wounded individuals in an emotional sense. One has survived the war in the Pacific, only to witness his best friend Michael die, turning the other into a widow in the process. As he promised to do so, Donny checks in on his late best friend’s wife and a special relationship – initially a working one, which slowly blossoms into a romantic one – sets its wheels in motion. After struggling to find work, Donny, a pianist, hears about the aforementioned radio contest, which promises to honour the war veterans with a televised final in New York, with the winning song to also be performed in an upcoming Hollywood movie. The shining prize incites Donny to put together a band with an unbeatable gimmick, namely that it is solely comprised of war veterans itself. On discovering Julia’s singing talents, she is also added to the mix as Michael’s widow and what follows is the Rise of “The Donny Nova Band Featuring Julia Trojan.”

Interestingly, much of the more harrowing moments in the book are also the moments of comic relief. The multi-talented actor/musicians that make up Donny’s band each have their own unique character flaws that are a direct result of (what we now know to be) post-traumatic stress disorder. Whether its Davy’s alcoholism or Johnny’s memory lapses, the gags are a plenty, but underneath lies a dark sadness that leaves its mark on the audience.

It always brings a welcomed authenticity when actors play their own instruments on stage and Corey Cott is delivering the performance of a lifetime, both from behind the piano and centre stage under the spotlight. He reminds me of a young Hugh Jackman, who is steadily blooming into one of Broadway’s most accomplished performers. And with recently becoming a father offstage, I just don’t know how he is still finding the energy to deliver what he does, night after night. And of course, Laura Osnes looks and sounds like an angel. These two are a dream team and I, for one, hope it’s not the last time we see this pairing!

Click here for tickets to Bandstand for performances through to September 17, 2017 at Broadway's Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.

- by Tom Millward

Production Details
Venue: Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
Genre: Musical
Previewed: 31 Mar 2017
Opened: 26 Apr 2017
Music: Richard Oberacker
Book & Lyrics: Richard Oberacker & Robert Taylor
Director: Andy Blankenbuehler

Synopsis: Set in the smoke filled, swing fueled night clubs of 1945, Bandstand brings the against-all-odds story of singer/songwriter Donny Novitski and his band of mismatched fellow WWII veterans to the stage. When a national radio contest to find America's next big swing band offers a chance at instant fame and Hollywood fortune, Donny must whip his wise-cracking gang of jazzers into fighting shape. Teaming up with the beautiful young war widow Julia as their singer, they struggle to confront the lingering effects and secrets of the battlefield that threaten to tear them apart. Playing for every voiceless underdog in a world that has left them behind, they risk everything in the final live broadcast to redefine the meaning of victory. With an explosive original score and choreography inspired by the high energy swing rhythms of the era, Bandstand is a truly American story of love, loss, triumph and the everyday men and women whose personal bravery defined a nation.

Cast: Laura Osnes (Julia Trojan), Corey Cott (Donny Novitski), Beth Leavel (Mrs. Adams), Joe Carroll (Johnny Simpson), Brandon James Ellis (Davy Zlatic), James Nathan Hopkins (Jimmy Campbell), Geoff Packard (Wayne Wright) and Joey Pero (Nick Radel)

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