‘BANDSTAND’: (left ro right) Joe Carroll, James Nathan Hopkins, Alex Bender, Laura Osnes, Geoff Packard, Corey Cott & Brandon J. Ellis. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

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Music by Richard Oberacker
Book & lyrics by Rob Taylor & Mr. Oberacker
Directed & choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler
Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
242 West 45th Street

By David NouNou

The joy of experiencing Bandstand is seeing an original musical. Not musicalizing a hit movie or an animated motion picture, Bandstand is created from scratch. The subject matter is familiar but still relevant today; it’s about soldiers returning from a war, in this case WWII, and having to rebuild their lives. They have served their country and now they are outcasts because they lost their jobs and it is a struggle to find anything.

It is 1945 and Danny Novitski (Corey Cott) has returned to his home town of Cleveland and can’t find a musical gig until he hears on the radio that there is a contest (“Tribute to the Troops”) for the best band from each of the states to compete for the grand prize in New York City. Danny is a pianist and singer forms his own swing band by enlisting five other musicians: bass (Brandon J. Ellis), drums (Joe Carroll), trumpet (James Nathan Hopkins), trombone (Alex Bender) and sax (Geoff Packard). They are all veterans who have returned from the war with their own battle scars and they all play their own musical instruments to perfection.

Danny carries the heaviest burden;he has to inform and look after the wife of his dead war buddy. Their dream was to form their band and play in New York. He eventually has to confront his problem and come to Julie Trojan’s (Laura Osnes) home who lives with her mother June Adams (Beth Leavel). Julie sings in the church choir and has a great voice, Danny implores her to join his band as the singer which she does and he ultimately has to tell her that her husband died in friendly fire.

All this may not sound new and it has a familiar feel of the old “let’s put on the greatest show” but it is put together honorably and entertainingly. The book seems contrived and you can see how things are going to fall in place. However, the score is transporting and the sound of the big band/swing era is exhilarating. Andy Blankenbuehler, who serves as both director and choreographer, has bumps along the way, where the two forms have to mesh together (in this case at times they seem to obstruct each other as a stop-and-go motion). The musical numbers are cohesive enough, but the choreography is almost forced to fit in with the context of the scene.

Laura Osnes is pure joy, she has the voice, the presence and the chops to make everything believable. Where Corey Cott floundered a few years ago in the misguided revival of Gigi, here he has honed his craft with the flair and charm of the returning soldier who makes good on a promise he made to his war buddy. The above-mentioned five musicians are expert players and actors simultaneously.

With Bandstand you may feel you’ve seen this plot before, but who cares? Among the swing music, vitality, sound, Ms. Osnes and Mr. Cott, it is an evening of sheer delight.



Edited by Scott Harrah
Published April 30, 2017
Reviewed at press performance on April 29, 2017

‘BANDSTAND’: Laura Osnes (center) & cast. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

‘BANDSTAND’: Corey Cott & Laura Osnes. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

‘BANDSTAND’: (left to right) Brandon J. Ellis, Corey Cott, Joe Carroll, James Nathan Hopkins, Alex Bender & Geoff Packard. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

‘BANDSTAND’: Corey Cott. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

‘BANDSTAND’: Laura Osnes & Beth Leavel. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

‘BANDSTAND’: The company. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

‘BANDSTAND’: Corey Cott & Laura Osnes (center) & cast. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

‘BANDSTAND’: Corey Cott & Laura Osnes (center) & cast. Photo: Jeremy Daniel

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