By Arlene and Thor Larsen
(Photos by Thor Larsen)
Bandstand gives the audience just what it craves, an entertaining evening filled with upbeat music by Robert Oberacker in the 1940’s big band genre, along with toe-tapping choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler. Blankenbuehler won a coveted Tony Award for his work in Hamilton and again in 2017 for his imaginative staging and outstanding choreography in Bandstand.
Our handsome hero Donny has just returned from the war, and is sensitively played by Cory Cott, who belts out his songs in a strong and melodic voice. His talent becomes handy since our hero wants to start a band. Donny’s best friend does not make it home, but had asked Donny to check on his wife in Cincinnati. Julia, the young and beautiful widow back home, is played by the talented co-star Laura Osnes. As luck would have it, the attractive widow has a smooth set of pipes, can belt out a tune and writes poignant poetry that become lyrics for Donny’s songs.
Donny and his five G.I. buddies, who all suffer the scars of combat, form a band with the dream-like end goal of winning a radio contest and a coveted music contract. However, the challenges these soldiers are faced with include unemployment, guilt over those left behind and serious physical and psychological wounds of warfare. The play marries the up-beat feeling of victory while dealing with the personal problems caused by war.
The brass band’s music, the exuberant voices of Osnes and Cott, and the fabulous boogie-woogie dancing help sustain this iconic musical and is the vehicle to get the audience past the weaknesses in the story. If you have ever wanted to enjoy big-band music and dance, as we have, you will certainly want to visit it with Bandstand.