Review: Bandstand – Original Broadway Cast Recording
Do you need a jolt of Broadway musical energy, something that crackles and pops while simultaneously gliding on joyous melody? Do you pine for a musical score that summons the old-style musical, evoking nostalgia for song and dance? Do you long for a show that is both fresh and familiar, the antithesis of the “sturm und drang” of most contemporary musicals? If so, then do I have a treat to recommend to you. The Original Cast Recording of the new Broadway musical Bandstand is guaranteed to deliver all of what I have suggested and more, making the case for a healthy run for this “little musical that could.”
Bandstand, featuring a score by Richard Oberacker and Robert Taylor, tells the story of a World War II veteran who wants to assemble a band composed of other military veterans. His goal: to win a national radio a competition. This is the 1940s, so this gives the composers the opportunity to dive into pastiche and stir-up swing, jazz, and blues melodies by the dozen. They do this expertly, creating a score that pulses with rhythm and explodes with catchy melody, the perfect dance floor for Andy Blankenbuehler’s Tony-winning choreography to ride on. This recording makes you feel like you are in the theatre witnessing this winsome and wonderful show.
The album also captures three flawless performances: Corey Cott (Newsies, Gigi) proves that he is more than just a pretty boy love interest. From his “I am” song “Donny Novitski,” he establishes himself a far-more textured performer than we have given him credit for thus far in his career. He builds the song with restraint and then adds explosive little bursts of energy that take it up, notch-by-notch, into the stratosphere. He has a lovely sound, as creamy as the “cream rising” that he sings about. He ups the stakes with the palpably urgent “Right this Way.” We are a bit more familiar with Laura Osnes (Cinderella, Bonnie and Clyde) and we are aware of how she can finesse a song with her silky instrument. Equally comfortable with a ballad or a comedy number, she never fails to inhabit a song with both her heart and her mind. Her performance of “Love Will Come and Find Me Again” is both torchy and spunky, tender and tenacious (the song itself conjures memories of some of the best Cy Coleman ditties), but she is just as eclectically emotional throughout the entire score. A more sumptuous treat comes anytime that Cott and Osnes sing together, particularly in the haunting “Welcome Home.” Finally, the earthy voice of Beth Leavel (The Drowsey Chaperone) is always a welcome addition to any musical, and all her material shines here, especially her passionately reflective “Everything Happens.” Though a performer of her magnitude should be deserving of more material, she makes a meal out the opportunities she is given here and the fact that she makes us want more is a tribute to her skills and talent.
Broadway Records has delivered a terrific album, but they have the highest standards of those producing original cast recordings, so it is really what I have come to expect. The original cast recording of Bandstand is an emotionally-charged, warm and welcome listen. It takes me back to a time and place that I never got to experience while wrapping me in a blanket of nostalgia that was never mine to recall. In doing so, it makes me want to be in the theatre watching this show and I hope it prompts all listeners to want to make that journey as well.
The album is available from Broadway Records on Friday, June 23.