“Bandstand” Makes Musical Memories on Broadway

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It sure is hot outside, so why not escape the heat for two hours and immerse yourself in some of Broadway’s best?

With firecracker choreography, bold voices, immaculate on-stage instrumentation and a stunning set, Broadway’s “Bandstand” is a spectacle, and it’s one of our favorite shows to see this summer.

Starring Broadway starlet Laura Osnes and stunner Corey Cott as Julia Trojan and Donny Novitski, respectively, “Bandstand” is a tribute not only to attainable Broadway perfection, but also to American troops and veterans. Tickets are available now online and at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre box office, located at 242 W. 45th St.

Private Donny Novitski, a singer, piano player and songwriter, has just returned home from battle in World War II. In the post-war era, everyone, veteran and civilian alike, is reeling from the war’s affects. Everyone just wants to figure out how to be the person they were before.

For Donny, that means making music. When NBC announces a competition to find the next great American song, Donny sees a glimmer of hope, and a distraction from dealing with his war traumas.

He puts together a band. But it’s no ordinary group of musicians: each is a veteran, and each has their own demons leftover from the war. The group grows in friendship and brotherhood, and welcomes widow Julia Trojan into the group as a singer. Julia is the widow of Donny’s best friend. She and Donny begin a friendship, but is there something more there?

All seven band members play an instrument live on stage. They must muddle through the tribulations of bandhood and find a way to make it to the NBC competition in New York City.

“Bandstand,” which features choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler, 2016 Tony Award winner for “Hamilton: An American Musical,” won the 2017 Tony Award for Best Choreography. The show uses choreography in the most unique of ways, with dancers beautifully articulating what it feels like to come home after battle. As the characters on stage are dealing with their own ghosts and PTSD, the dancers display to the audience, through dramatic movements, how they are feeling.

Laura Osnes was previously seen on Broadway as Ella in the 2013 revival of  Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella,” whereas Corey Cott was last seen as Gaston opposite Vanessa Hudgens in “Gigi.”

We spoke with cast member Geoff Packard, who plays Wayne Wright in the show, about his role, the cast and the explosive dancing “Bandstand” is now famous for.

“Bandstand” just won the Tony for Best Choreography; what is it about the show’s choreography and movements that is so special and unique? How do you guys feel about winning this honor?

Geoff Packard: Any acknowledgement for our show, in any way, is icing on the cake. The chance to watch these amazing dancers perform Andy’s brilliant and moving choreography, in a way that tells these Men and Women’s story–the one’s who came back from combat and didn’t talk about it— that is the ultimate honor.

This show has meant a lot to a lot of veterans out there and their families. Why do you think the show touches veterans in such a way?

GP: I don’t pretend to know for sure, having never served in that capacity myself. I would hope that any veterans or active military who come and see “Bandstand” (as well everyone else who comes) leave with a greater respect for the sacrifice our military makes, especially combat veterans. Our hope is not to glorify war or pity the veterans who serve, but rather truthfully explore what happens when combat veterans re-acclaimate to society post war. My hope is that they feel honored by that.

Several cast members play instruments live on stage which is really cool! What do you think playing music live on stage brings to the overall production?

GP: I think live music is the best thing in the world. It is captivating for an audience. It’s also the hardest thing for us to master. For the guys in the band (Donny Nova Band), it has given us a brotherhood, a camaraderie, and the strength to pursue the deepest truths of these characters. I love these guys.

Even though you act in this show almost every night, do you have a favorite scene to perform?

GP: The scene before the end of Act 1. I don’t want to give anything away…but its a good one.

Are you and your character alike at all? How are you different?

GP: Wayne and I are alike in that we both have a wife and children (the writer’s of the show used the name Grady–which is my actual son’s name!!), and we are both loyal men. Other than that…we are pretty much opposites! I am the WORST at scheduling my days, and I love to eat things after they fall on the floor (within reason).

Photos courtesy of “Bandstand”