BWW Review: BANDSTAND at The National Theatre
Bandstand had its Broadway opening in 2017, unfortunately closing the same year, but racking up a Tony for Best Choreography.
Many aspects of the tour have remained true to the original production, some have differed for the better, and some not.
The show follows Donny Novitski (Zack Zaromatidis), a pianist just back from the war looking for work but failing to find anything until he discovers an NBC new musical group contest that he believes will remedy his problems.
Zack Zaromatidis brought a lot of humor to his role of Donny, which I was not entirely expecting, but wasn't opposed to. He was a little hard to make out sometimes, not sure if that is due to microphone mishaps or naturally lacking in volume, but was soft, especially while singing. Overall, I did think he did a fine job and captured the essence of the character.
Donny's female counterpart of the show is Julia Trojan (Jennifer Elizabeth Smith), the widow of his departed friend from the military who he wishes to recruit for the group he wishes to assemble for the contest. Smith looked every bit the part of Julia, very poised and strong, and had a beautiful voice. However, I believe her performance lacked variety. I definitely would have liked some other emotions from her throughout the show. I just felt like she lacked an opinion on the character. But her voice saved the performance, beautiful ringing soprano.
The rest of the core cast is comprised of the bandmates Donny assembles: Jimmy Campbell (Rob Clove, Davy Zlatic (Benjamin Powell), Nick Radel (Scott Bell), Wayne Wright (Louis Jannuzzi III), and Johnny Simpson (Jonmichael Tarleton). All of these performers played their instruments live, which was wildly impressive, on top of singing and overall performing. I found each to have created very unique characters, all of them adding a different layer to the show and evidently their final performance. I thought the chemistry between the band was palpable, something I didn't expect to be struck by. They were definitely a highlight of the performance.
The ensemble is primarily a dance ensemble, which was thoroughly enjoyable. The dancing was swing-based with a multitude of tricks and modern elements. The dancing not only illustrated the joy of post wartime, but also captured the horrors of active battle. Dance was also incorporated into the transitions from scene to scene which was interesting and engaging to watch. All members of the dance ensemble were extremely impressive and were amazing storytellers.
I love the message of this show, bringing light to horrors of war and its effect on soldiers, that it wasn't/isn't all just flags and parades. The cast did a wonderful job relaying this message, even getting a close to 5 minute standing ovation for their final performance. At the end of the show, the cast asked current and past members of the military and military family members to raise their hand and everyone in the house applauded them. As Zack Zaromatidis said post show "It's so special to perform this show in the nation's capital." I agree, it was special.
Bandstand runs at The National Theatre through March 8th. Tickets may be purchased through their website, TheNationalDC.com .