Mom Theatre Blogger: Bandstand: Show Review by Robin Gorman Newman

Donny Novitski and his eager band of fellow WWII veterans yearn to win fame and fortune as they seize the opportunity to enter a national radio contest to find America’s next big swing band.  Little does Donny know that his best buddy who died in the war was married to a beautiful, young songstress who he was asked to look in on. And, she writes poignant poetry that Donny can winningly put to music.  Julia winds up joining the band, as both she and Donny journey to make peace with their battlefield demons and create beautiful, healing music together.

Bandstand stars Tony Award nominee Laura Osnes (Julia) and Corey Cott (Donny) and features Tony Award winner Beth Leavel, Alex Bender, Joe Carroll, Brandon James Ellis, James Nathan Hopkins, and Geoff Packard.

Donny’s musical cohorts (BenderCarroll, Ellis, Hopkins, Packard) each has their own set of challenges resulting from the war, ranging from booze to marital issues.  The unity and goals of the band offer them support and purpose.

The conflicting tone of the ambitious, well-intended show shifts between depicting the seriousness of the war and exuberant dance and night club sequences.  It’s never quite clear, through the book by Robert Taylor and Richard Oberacker, what the show is trying to be, and how they want the audience to walk away from it, particularly after hearing in graphic detail about the brutal demise of Julia’s husband.

Osness and Cott make the most of their respective roles, through both are predictable, and we know where their immediate connection, despite some resistance, is going.

The boyishly appealing, and at times shirtless Cott, is well-cast as a driven, yet guilt-ridden war survivor.

The stunning Osness has a voice to match, and she brings both a strength and vulnerability to the role.

The always terrific Leavel as Julia’s spunky mom lends a welcome dose of humor and heart.

The talented Bandstand ensemble features Mary Callanan, Max Clayton, Patrick Connaghan, Matt Cusack, Andrea Dotto, Marc A. Heitzman, Ryan Kasprzak, Andrew Leggieri, Erica Mansfield, Morgan Marcell, Drew McVety, Kevyn Morrow, Jessica Lea Patty, Becca Petersen, Keven Quillon, Jonathan Shew, Ryan VanDenBoom, Jaime Verazin, Mindy Wallace and Kevin Worley.

Though the music by Richard Oberacker is not memorable, Osness owns the spotlight during the powerful Welcome Home, the winning tune for the band.  And, she and Cott sing a lovely, emotion-packed, if all too short duet, This is Life.

It is, however, the stellar and energetic choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler (also Director) that is the real standout here. The sure-footed, athletic dancers are at the top of their hoofing game, and the men, particularly deliver some impressive, stylized moves.

The award winning Bandstand design team includes Tony Award nominee David Korins (Scenic Design), Tony Award winner Paloma Young (Costume Design), Tony Award winner Jeff Croiter (Lighting Design), Tony Award nominee Nevin Steinberg (Sound Design), Greg Anthony Rassen (Co-Orchestrator, Music Supervisor and Music Arranger), Tony winner Bill Elliott (Co-Orchestrator), Fred Lassen (Musical Director and Conductor), Mark Stuart (Associate Choreographer) and makeup, hair and wig design by J. Jared Janas and Dave Bova.