BWW Album Review: BAND GEEKS EP Marches To Its Own Drum
In 2010, the musical comedy Band Geeks premiered at Goodspeed, and now, almost nine years later, its score is finally available for listening. The EP of Band Geeks features seven of Mark Allen, Gaby Alter, and Tommy Newman's catchy songs. While it's very clearly a product of its time - that late 2000s/early-Glee era pop sound - every song is funny and earnest with charm to spare.
One of the biggest pitfalls to writing a musical about teenagers - in this case, a marching band in crisis mode - is trying to write in a voice that is simultaneously sophisticated but youthful and accurate but not dated. Nothing is more painful than hearing a bunch of teenaged characters speak and sing the way that adults think teenagers speak. That's what makes Band Geeks special: it captures that snarky, self-aware, earnest, and slightly overdramatic speech of teenagers by using rapid-fire, sometimes silly cadences and rhythms instead of overdoing it on "teen slang." It's charming and downright refreshing.
As band leader Elliott, Jared Gertner hits just the right notes of funny, awkward, and earnest. "Twirler Girl," his why-won-'t-she-notice-me song backed up with the male ensemble (F. Michael Haynie, Jason Michael Snow, Matt Braver, and Mike Millan), is what "Uptown Girl" would sound like if sung by not-suave-at-all high schoolers - and yes, that's a compliment. Alter and Newman's lyrics are hilariously specific (a reference to Chick-Fil-A makes its way in) and even slip in unexpectedly clever rhymes (I'm pretty sure this is the first lyric to rhyme "elliptical" with "reciprocal").
The rest of the cast is equally excellent, with Lindsay Mendez's Laura as the other standout. Mendez gets her own solo, "Lost In The Brass," which is a fairly standard contemporary-pop-Broadway song of just wanting to be seen. The song, which vaguely resembles an early Pasek and Paul sound, gives Mendez plenty of room to play around with character and to belt out Laura's feelings. If the content - a "band geek" feeling like she's ignored for a cheerleader - is a little cliché, that's okay because it's expressed in such a heartfelt way.
Ditto with "If I Had A Stage," sung here by Mendez's Carousel stage husband Alex Gemignagni as the band's forlorn teacher. With a repeating structure that contrasts what he thought he'd be doing and how his life has actually turned out, the song overcomes its relatively simple concept to be pretty heartfelt.
"One Look At You," a duet between Mendez and Douglas Lyons as two people on opposite ends of the high school social hierarchy, probably has the most mid-2000s pop sound, but it's also one of the smartest tracks on the album. It's the kind of song that will be familiar to anyone who loves musicals: a back-and-forth banter between two opposites who come to a bit of an understanding by the end. We know where this is going, but the musical drive and the easy chemistry between Mendez and Lyons makes the ride fun anyway.
The final two songs on the album are true team efforts. "Get It Together" is a classic eleventh-hour-let's-work-together song, like a particularly peppy version of Newsies's "Once And For All." Ruthie Ann Miles, in a supporting role, gets a chance to stand out on this track. And the finale, "Back of the Bus," doesn't quite make as much sense without context, but it's a relatively low-key and sweet ending to the album. For anyone who's ever been in a band (or who remembers that high school feeling of everything being high-stakes), Band Geeks is a humorous and surprisingly relatable tale - even if you have no idea what a tuning note or a drill chart is!