Bandstand: The Musical
“Welcome home my boys
Welcome home my sons
Welcome home my husband
Welcome home my love
Welcome home, welcome home” ~ Bandstand
There is something utterly riveting about Broadway. It literally seems like magic in itself as cast and crew move around the stage seamlessly in front of a live audience. From shifting props and sets, to never missing a beat with lines and lyrics, anything can and sometimes does go wrong, and yet it is enthralling every time. While most shows do not have the big budget of flashy CGI that movies do, it has something better.
Broadway shows are like a crazy engaging emotional rollercoaster. It isn’t just watching someone spend ten hours in a therapist office pouring their heart out about the good, bad, and everything in between, but a good show makes YOU feel like you just did that. It is cathartic in the most genuine and human kind of way. You are rooting, sobbing, and cheering right along with the cast. And at the end they almost always leave you with the warm and fuzzies in a way that life doesn’t always do. It is both relatable and escapism at its finest.
Bandstand is that show that invokes emotions you never knew you could feel at the same time. Their is a reason it won a Tony. (for best choreography) If the field had not been so saturated with equally amazing shows like Dear Evan Hansen and Come From Away, it would have been nominated for (and won) more. From the beginning scene this is a show that captivates you with the choreography, singing, sets and most importantly the story. It is a story that NEEDED to be told.
Set in 1945, Donny Novitski (Nova) comes back from the war struggling to adjust back into the life he had led before he left. He is also living with the guilt that he came home and his best friend did not. As a pianist, music, is his life, but even that he finds difficult, unable to find a job performing. When he hears of a competition sponsored by NBC searching for the next big band, he decides to create a band of veterans in hopes of winning and finally realizing his dream.
Connecting with five other men, all from various branches of the military, “The Donny Nova Band” is formed. It isn’t a cake walk. They all struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with music the only thing keeping them going most of the time. Donny made a promise to his friend to watch over his widow. In doing so, he not only discovers a kindred spirit, but the lead voice for the band.
Like those who suffer from PTSD in real life, it is not an easy journey for any of them, yet Bandstand does not shy away from showing insight to the approximate twenty-four million people many of whom are veterans who suffer from PTSD. Because it is Broadway, Bandstand does have a happy ending. It is not like that for many Veterans.
At times it is a gritty show. PTSD is messy and disorienting. While it can be daunting to accurately showcase the turmoil, it is the choreography that translates that in truly jaw dropping, awe-inducing fashion. THIS is what dance is. It is through the choreography, that the mental struggle is displayed in all of its grit, danced in a raw, yet elegant way. The dance of the brain is transcribed to the stage in such a way it is equally beautiful as it is heart-wrenching leaving the audience as engaged in the movement as we are to the songs and acting.
Weaving between the dark and light
Bandstand effortlessly weaves between dark and light infusing the show with many jokes (Julia Trojan…Yes we are all prepubescent boys at heart) so as to keep it from becoming to melancholy.
Engaging the big bands of that era, the music is boisterous and vibrant with so much energy that it can’t help but infect the audience causing us to start toe-tapping right along to the beats. (my calf muscles thanked the orchestra).
It is a show that is physically and emotionally taxing on the cast and yet they did it with an ease that not only shed light on an important issue, but still took you back in time. Laura Osnes and Corey Cott, especially displayed exemplary acting and singing chops infusing not just their words, but the lyrics with emotion that ripped your heart out and sewed it back together again.
By far my favorite song was “Welcome Home.” From the lyrics to the instrumental solos it gutted at the heart and tugged at the strings, both Osnes and Cotts versions were equally lyrically stunning, reaching notes that pierced the heart.
All the Feels
The choreography, the music, the acting, the sets, the costumes, it was all amazing, I admit I did not think I would like this show as much as I did. In fact I didn’t like it. I LOVED it. This is by far one of my favorite Broadway shows.
Unfortunately, as does happen with Broadway shows, even ones as amazing as this, Bandstand closed this past Sunday. I was so incredibly lucky I got to see one of the last performances. You could tell how heartfelt and connected the cast was through out and at the end and how grateful they were to the audience. It is a story that NEEDED to be told and did so in truly exquisite fashion, honoring vets in the most beautiful way, through the healing power of song and dance. This is a show that left Broadway to soon and it will surely be missed!
There are talks that it is going to go on tour and I so hope it does so that this story can continue to be told.
Until then, Happy Trails Bandstand!
Did you seen Bandstand? What is your favorite musical?