Welcome to Katz Reviews. This is Ed Katz of Katnip Marketing- marketing consultant by day; theater and film critic by night- bringing my weekly review segment, Katz Reviews, here for you on WICC 600.
Today’s review is of the new Broadway musical, ‘Gettin’ the Band Back Together.’ It’s billed as original because it isn’t adapted from a book or a movie. But it’s really not original, as anyone who has gone to the theater the past decade will recognize plot points from other shows buried- not so deeply- in this one.
l to r: Paul Whitty, Jay Klaitz, Mitchell Jarvis, Manu Narayan; The Hollywood Reporter
A few that immediately come to mind are ‘School of Rock,’ ‘Rock of Ages’ (where this show found many of its actors) and ‘The Wedding Singer.’ There are others, too- including one funny sight gag with a red flag cleverly- and comically- reminiscent of ‘Les Miz.’
That was unpredictable- unlike the entire plot, which even the show’s dialogue pokes fun at. The music and lyrics by Mark Allen aren’t exceptional but aren’t bad, either. A song called ‘Bart’s Confession’ is actually terrific.
Lead producer and book writer Ken Davenport is clearly aiming for a silly, fun good time. And, if you like low brow humor (like ‘Rock of Ages’), his show often hits the mark.
l to r: Jay Klaitz, Mitchell Jarvis; thewrap.com
Act One gets us off to a pretty weak start. Mitch, the lead character played with an energetic likability by Mitchell Jarvis (who reminded me of a tamer Jim Carey) gets fired- from a job he hated- on his 40th birthday and moves back in with his mom in New Jersey.
Mitch’s mom instantly reconnects Mitch with his high school sweetheart, played at the performance I saw by understudy Becca Kotte- who was excellent!
l to r: Paul Whitty, Marilu Henner, Sawyer Nunes; playbill.com
The show has a lot of fun with both Mitch’s mom- as played by a still captivating Marilu Henner- and with New Jersey, cramming in at least a dozen Jersey jokes and sight gags within about a three-minute span. The show even has Marilu passing out treats to the audience at intermission- you can see the one she gave me on my Katz Reviews Facebook page (here: https://www.facebook.com/KatzReviews/).
Anyway, Mitch quickly re-engages with his old buddies from their high school rock band, Juggernaut. It’s no surprise that all the band members agree to rejoin the group, given they all hate their lives.
Juggernaut’s old nemesis- a band called ‘Mouthfeel’- is led by the now big local real estate tycoon, Tygen Billows- played as an athletically buffed, comically malevolent middle aged Biff from ‘Back to the Future’- by a scenery chewing Brandon Williams.
Brandon Williams; playbill.com
A rare unpredictable moment is the band’s need to replace their lead guitarist, who died. Mitch’s best friend, Bart, as played by Jay Klaitz- doing a good impersonation of Zach Galifinakis crossed with Josh Gad- finds a 16-year old named Ricky Bling whom nobody wants in the band- until they hear him play his guitar.
As played with a lot of talent by Sawyer Nunes, Bling steals the scene- and saves the day for Juggernaut- at a practice gig at an Orthodox Jewish Wedding. It’s the second funniest scene in the show.
The funniest scene features Bart having difficulty telling Mitch- in that great number, ‘Bart’s Confession’- that he slept with Mitch’s mom.
Well, I did say the show has fun with Marilu Henner’s character.
Directed about as well as possible by the talented John Rando, the story takes a while to build some steam. Act Two overcomes a lot of the difficulties in Act One- all the romances are predictable (you can see each one a mile away- and there are no plot twists with any of them). Act Two is still completely predictable- including the ridiculous ending- but it has the two funniest scenes in it.
This show is a real mixed bag. All the leads are talented, goofy and likable but one moment you may groan- or even cringe- and another moment you’re grinning. Broadway purists might be horrified but there are several fun moments- if you don’t think too hard about them- and I give ‘Gettin’ the Band Back Together’ 3 stars out of 5.
Note- the show’s lead producer just announced it will close September 16th.
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