Saturday, May 13, 2017

In Toe-Tapping 'Bandstand: The New American Musical', Swing Is a Means of Putting Dispirited War Vets Back to Rights

The company of "Bandstand: The New American Musical." Photos by Jeremy Daniel.


come back battle-fatigued. But when it passes, they realize that their reality is far different from that of the homefront.

Just as it is true today when soldiers return from wars around the world, it was so after World War II, with America recovering much faster than her returning veterans.

One such veteran is Donny Novitski (Corey Cott. His story is told in
"Bandstand: The New American Musical," in an open run at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.

Donny was a musician, a boy wonder who played the accordion at 6 and wowed at the piano
before he left for the Pacific front. His road to recovery is a national contest for a band to represent the new sound of a post-war America.

Julia (Laura Osnes), the singer, is the lone girl in the group in "Bandstand: The New American Musical."

To win the contest, Donny gathers a troupe of veterans that can swing with the best of them. Jimmy Campbell (James Nathan Hopkins) and Wayne Wright (Geoff Packard) are two of them. Each recommends another vet, one with a horn, Nick Rade (Alex Bender), one on bass, Davy Zlatic (Brandon James Ellis) and another on the drums, Johnny Simpson (Joe Carroll).

For "window dressing," as she puts it, Donny taps a girl to sing. Julia (Laura Osnes) is the widow of his best pal in the 37th. It's Julia's mother, Mrs. June Adams (Beth Leavel), who encourages and convinces her to join Donny's band.

The Tony-winning choreographer of "Hamilton," Andy Blankenbuehler, has those duties here as well as those of director. His creative and lively choreography in "Bandstand" has put him on the short list for this year's Tony, too.

The writers, Robert Taylor (book and lyrics) and Richard Oberacker (book, music and lyrics) are Broadway newbies, sort of. Both men have vast experience working as orchestra pit musicians around New York City. RO has written many musicals that have been produced off-Broadway and way off Broadway (some in Japan, for instance.)

"Bandstand" puts them squarely on the Great White Way. Although they have not gotten the Tony love they deserve, they are nominees for "Bests" at the Drama Desk Awards, as is LO (who also mystifyingly missed out on a Tony nomination). Bill Elliott and Greg Anthony Rassen are nominated, however, for Best Orchestration for "Bandstand."

In tribute to its sensitive treatment of veterans' issues, "Bandstand" is partnered with Got Your 6, an organization dedicated to representing the veteran experience with respect and honesty. (

"Bandstand" presents a serious subject with empathy, tact and delicacy. Also with flair and all the pizazz for which swing bands are known. Everyone in the production is terrific, from the stars, CC and LO, to their "bandmates" and the ensemble that surrounds them. They tell a very touching story. There's plenty of jazzy music to keep you tapping your toes and many fine
tunes to move the plot.

Donny and Julia (Corey Cott and Laura Osnes) backed by the band in "Bandstand: The New American Musical."

"Bandstand" is a cut above the typical Broadway fare in that it has both originality and heart.

Visit to learn more about "Bandstand: The New American Musical."

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