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.
Starring two-time Tony Award nominee Laura Osnes (Cinderella, Grease, Bonnie and Clyde), and Broadway sensation Corey Cott (Newsies, Gigi), Bandstand is a truly American story of love, loss, triumph and the everyday men and women whose personal bravery defined a nation
In a season so full of new musicals, I could wish that “Bandstand,” like some others, had a little more room to breathe. It’s a populist crowd-pleaser, performed with such ebullient energy that you find yourself rooting for the boys to win the big prize, sentimental though it seems. And while the show certainly has its imperfections — few shows are without them — I found myself rooting just as happily for it, too
The resonant original musical Bandstand dances a delicate line between nostalgia and disillusion. What it seems to promise, and often delivers, is Broadway escapism: a tale of soldiers returning from World War II into a lively world of big-band music, boogie-woogie dancing and a booming American economy. Donny (the very engaging Corey Cott) assembles a music combo composed entirely of fellow veterans, hoping to win a competition in New York and earn a shot at Hollywood. Sounds like a happy old movie, right? But these soldiers, we soon learn, have trouble getting into the swing of things. Try though they may—through work, repression, copious drinking—they can’t shake off the horror of war.
And although it features some Golden Age attributes it is hardly at Golden Age level. But an original musical with loads of fun music, expressive dance, and a will to grapple with issues that remain painfully topical is not to be dismissed glibly. If nothing else it may serve as a reminder that history and real human behavior are the proper subjects of musical storytelling, not dismissible impediments to it.