It was my last day in New York. I had just left the matinee of Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 in utter disbelief of the magic that was made on the stage of the Imperial. My mother and I had gone to dinner and were now waiting in line to enter the Jacobs Theatre to see Bandstand.
Bandstand was the one show that I had actually planned on seeing while in New York. I knew I would see others, but hadn’t bought the tickets, but I wanted to make sure to see Bandstand. Maybe it was a bit of a redemption for the first time I had come to the city to see Cinderella and Laura Osnes was out of the show that week, maybe it was my incessant need for originality on Broadway, or maybe it was both. I knew I wanted to see this show.
Something that I love doing, and rarely have the opportunity to do, is seeing a show without even an idea of what it is about. I love being able to enter a theatre with a blank pallet and let the actors and musicians take me away. I had an idea of what Bandstand was about. I knew that it was about men who returned home from WWII and started a band, but Lord, I had no idea what I was in for.
The show starts and you are instantly taken to the war. You are there with Donny and Michael and are faced with the harsh realities of what happened there. They don’t sugar coat it, its real. When you end up in Cleaveland and see the way the war has changed people, it’s an eye opener. Before I saw this show, WWII seemed so far away, so disconnected. I knew that my grandfather had fought, I knew he saw things he never talked about, but this show put it into perspective for me. The way you see these men behave and try to deal with their inner demons is such eye-opening theatre. When the doctor tells Donny to find something quick, that he’s gone to three funerals that month because the men wanted a way to make it stop, I actually wanted to cry. Back then, and even to an extent now, people didn’t talk about what happened. They were expected to get over it, see it as an honor, and get through it. But talking about experiences helps so much, but it just wasn’t seen as an option then, they just had to do what it took to make it like it was before.
When the 11 o’clock number rolls around and you see that someone is talking about it, that they want every man who served to know that they aren’t alone, I wanted to cry even more. I wish something like that was more readily available to men then, or even now. Sure, TV shows and movies talk about it, but back in the day, they had the MGM movie musicals that were more about the lavish homecomings than the realities of war.
This show has so many amazing aspects to it. It is a swing musical, which isnt common on Broadway, and not just that, but the actors on stage also play their own instruments. This means that not only do these actors have to act, sing, and dance well, but also be able to play swing music amazingly. There are still pit musicians who play the rest of the score, but when the Donny Nova Band is playing, the actors are playing the music.
Also, Tony winner for Hamilton, Andy Blankenbuehler directs and choreographs the show. I remember that during one particular dance number, there are people sliding with chairs across the stage and the audience went absolutely nuts for it. It was amazing. There is no doubt that this show had the best choreography this season, they won a Tony for it.
But what makes this show even more amazing is that this show is the first Got Your Six certified Broadway musical, meaning it’s the first show to accurately portray veterans stories. These stories need to be told just as much as any other story on Broadway.
The performances by the actors were just so touching. Having been a fan of Laura Osnes for years, finally getting to see her in a show was such an amazing experience. But it was Corey Cott’s performance of Donny that absolutely blew my mind. Why he was not nominated for a Tony still baffles me. He gave his all and left it on the stage during that performance. His performance was one that will honestly stick with me for years to come.
Whatever your thoughts on the military may be, this show tells the stories of what happens to people who do what they think is the best thing for their country and how they do their best to cope with those experiences.