“Welcome to Katz Reviews. This is Ed Katz of Katnip Marketing- marketing consultant by day; theater critic by night- bringing my weekly review segment, Katz Reviews, here for you on WICC 600.
Dear listeners- I try to walk into theaters with no expectations- I try to keep my slate blank but, you know, that’s hard! I hear things! “The buzz” creeps in.
And when a new musical isn’t nominated for Best Musical? Well, expectations sag.
Is the show a complete turkey- like, say, ‘Amelie’? Or is it an under-appreciated gem that should have been a hit, like ‘Amazing Grace’?
‘Bandstand’ wasn’t nominated for Best Musical from the Tony Awards. But it won Best Choreography.So, other than the dancing, I admit I had pretty low expectations. But it’s good to be surprised! And I was!
Okay, ‘Bandstand’ has a REALLY predictable first act. Set in 1945, a battle-scarred soldier named Donny- played by Corey Cott (who starred in ‘Newsies’)- returns home to Cleveland to find nobody wants to hire the former child prodigy piano player.
So he scrapes by, playing one-off gigs, then hears about a contest for best band- and the contest is to honor our troops. So, of course, he decides to put together a band and win the Ohio state contest! And then go to New York to win the national finals.
Wrong. The characters who make up the band are each unique, well-drawn and entertaining. And Donny’s love interest, played by the always excellent Laura Osnes, truly shines! As does the reliably funny Beth Leavel as her mother.
The big brassy score is by Richard Oberacker, making his Broadway debut. He also co-wrote the book and lyrics with Robert Taylor.
Both bands really do a great job- the onstage band, played by the actors, as well as the offstage orchestra. And the music is toe-tapping, big band swing and jazz and gets a big thumbs up! It also is rare in that the music- and the show- are unabashed salutes to our military personnel for the suffering they endure.
Though Act One is predictable, Act Two has some surprises in store and they raise the entertainment level even higher as the band heads to New York for the contest finals.
‘Bandstand’ received several Drama Desk nominations, including Laura Osnes as Outstanding Actress in a Musical. It won Best Choreography and Orchestration.
That choreography, by Andy Blankenbuehler, who also directed, is top shelf! That alone makes ‘Bandstand’ worth seeing. The athletic, acrobatic dancing is often jaw-dropping. And the dancers are remarkable- all are lithe and agile and have no body fat!
They even make the simple act of bringing a chair on stage entertaining; doing it with a long slide across the floor.
So even a predictable story can be redeemed with interesting characters, good music, some great singing by star Laura Osnes and award-winning dancing. I give ‘Bandstand’ 4 stars out of 5- it’s a happy surprise! Note: ‘Bandstand’ closes September 17th!
Catch my reviews right here this time each week and on my Facebook page and website, Katz Reviews dot com, where you will find all my WICC 600 reviews.
This is Ed Katz talking theater for WICC 600!”