Fathom Events' "Bandstand": Dancing Feat

The Cast of "Bandstand"
(photo: Jeremy Daniel)

Bandstand , the Broadway musical, was presented on June 25th by Fathom Events as the latest in an ongoing series of recorded-live performances of theatrical events. It was first seen on Broadway in 2017 (after a run at Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey in 2015), but lasted for only 24 previews and 166 performances. It nonetheless managed to score two Tony Award nominations, for orchestrations and choreography, winning the latter for Andy Blankenbuehler, who also directed (and had won the Tony for choreography just the season before for Hamilton). It should be noted that it was a comparatively competitive year, what with Dear Evan Hansen, Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Come From Away and Groundhog Day all in contention. In almost any other year, there would surely have been more recognition for Bandstand, especially for its performances and dancing.

Corey Cott in "Bandstand"
(photo: Jeremy Daniel)

The story centers on Donny Novitski (Corey Cott, who appeared previously in Newsies and Gigi on Broadway), a hunky veteran returning from World War II with other vets suffering from what would today be recognized as PTSD, OCD and survivor's guilt. The settings are various venues around Cleveland and New York City, as Novitski forms a veterans' band to perform in a national radio contest. The score, with a healthy emphasis on swing and bebop with original songs by Rob Taylor (who also wrote the Book) and Richard Oberacker, is enjoyable, though the lyrics are often predictable, as is the Book. There are a couple of surprises, not to be revealed here, but the main interest remains the incredible dancing and movement (even in the roles of stagehands), and those performances, chiefly those of the charismatic Cott and his love interest, Julia Trojan, wonderfully played by Laura Osnes (a Broadway veteran herself, including such shows as Grease, South Pacific, Bonnie & Clyde, Anything Goes, and Cinderella). She had been previously nominated twice for a Tony Award, for Bonnie & Clyde and Cinderella. The rest of the cast was uniformly (no pun intended) terrific, with some of the best one-liners delivered by Beth Leavel as Julia's mother and Brandon J. Ellis as Davy Zlatic on bass. The rest of the on-stage band included James Nathan Hopkins (sax and clarinet), Alex Bender (trumpet), Geoff Packard (trombone) and Joe Carroll (drums).

Corey Cott, Laura Osnes & the Cast of "Bandstand"
(photo: Jeremy Daniel)

The versatile Scenic Design was by David Korins, with mostly apt Costume Design by Paloma Young, fluid Lighting Design by Jeff Croiter and Sound Design by Kevin Steinberg, all contributing to the look and sound of the play with a cast of twenty seven, in a production lasting just over two hours.

As fine as these creative elements were, the show's impact was really all about the dancing, with Blankenbuehler's outstanding contribution. The script may disappoint in several scenes, but no matter. It's worth the trip for that unforgettable dancing feat.

An encore HD Broadcast will be offered on Thursday June 28 at a theater near you.

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