Review Roundup: Laura Osnes, Corey Cott Star in Paper Mill's THE BANDSTAND
Paper Mill Playhouse opened its 2015-2016 season with the world premiere musical The Bandstand. Tony Award nominee Laura Osnes (Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella, Bonnie and Clyde), Corey Cott (Newsies, Gigi) and Tony Award winner Beth Leavel (The Drowsy Chaperone, 42nd Street) star in the show, which runs through Sunday, November 8, 2015.
THE BANDSTAND is directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Andy Blankenbuehler (Hamilton, Bring It On, In the Heights). The Bandstand features a book and lyrics by Richard Oberacker and Robert Taylor and music by Richard Oberacker.
Set in 1945, The Bandstand tells the story of a mismatched band of military veterans who join together to compete in a national radio contest in New York City with a prize that will guarantee instant stardom to the winners. But with complicated relationships, the demands of the competition and the challenging after-effects of war, going all the way for a win in the contest seems like a dream that may break these musicians. The original score is strongly influenced by authentic 1940s swing music and much of it is played onstage by the characters who make up the band. The show races towards a "live on air" finale that has an emotionally charged and surprise twist ending that requires every ounce of talent, stamina and raw nerve that these musicians possess.
Let's see what the critics have to say about the original new musical:
Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: Cott's gritty charisma, matching his soaring vocals and jaunty dance skills, combine for a dynamic portrait of a flawed man who is heroic in his effort to do right by others. Osnes tugs at the heart as a wounded soul who finds the freedom to express herself through music... Production values are modest, but The Bandstand flies on the strength of its excellent material, skilled performances and poignant subject matter.
Patrick Maley, NJ.com: "all hail the Paper Mill Playhouse, whose risky new bet pays off thrillingly. "The Bandstand" is a bold, uncompromising musical that jumps and swings with heart, energy, and a refreshing resistance to schmaltz. It refuses to shy away from its own weighty subject matter, while also delivering a rousing score of big-band swing complemented by frenetic dance numbers."
Michael Glitz, The Huffington Post: Essentially, The Bandstand is smooth entertainment as the description of its basic plot makes clear. It might have been as bland as the generic poster advertising the show. Instead, it consistently allows a darker thread to run through the story.
Matt Windman, AM New York: It's a pleasure to report that "The Bandstand" is a terrific new musical with an absorbing plot, likable characters, high emotional stakes, a tuneful, big band-style score, and seamless swing dance choreography from director-choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, who just choreographed "Hamilton."
Liz Keill, TapintoElizabeth: This is the world premiere of "The Bandstand" and there's talk it could go on to Broadway. But it needs some tweaking to make it completely absorbing, with more opportunities to go beneath the surface. Although there are a couple of references to Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope, a greater sense of that time could be found with political references or what really happened in Manila between Donny and Julia's husband.
Stephen Collins, BritishTheatre.com: The Bandstand is ... an unqualified triumph in every way, superbly directed, immaculately performed, and consummately engaging and absorbing. And it hasn't made it to Broadway yet - despite its quality, the creatives are still tinkering and amending, determined to polish this diamond to sparkling perfection. They don't have far to go, for already this production of The Bandstand is better than most of the current musicals offerings on the Great White Way.
Photo Credit: Genevieve Rafter-Keddy