Bandstand delivers the snazzy swing music, ladies in pin curls, and trumpet players in high-waisted trousers that audiences expect from a musical set in 1945. In many ways, this new Broadway musical—currently in previews at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, opening April 26—offers the familiar comforts of Bernstein-era entertainment.
But there are plenty of surprises beneath that Brylcreem veneer. For one, songwriters Robert Taylor and Richard Oberacker have given Bandstand a fully original score. In fact, the story is partially about the power of creating music.
“The core of the show is this universal language of music and how people use music to get through things,” says Corey Cott, who plays pianist Donny, a recent World War II veteran who forms a band with fellow vets and Laura Osnes’ Julia, the widow of his best friend.
And here’s the next surprise: They don’t always have a good time. Historically, musicals from this period kept things light—think of Gene Kelly dancing with a cartoon mouse in Anchors Aweigh—but despite its vintage style, Bandstand has a modern point of view.
“The music is their fix,” Osnes says. “They all realize that they forget everything else when they are in harmony together, playing stuff.”
This is not to say that Bandstand is a downer—just that it mixes shadows with dance breaks, choreographed by director Andy Blankenbuehler. Both actors say that’s necessary for making their characters feel like real people.
Both Cott and Osnes have become so attached to the show that they’ve stayed with it for years. “There comes a point where you say, ‘This is the project I want to stick with and do,’” Cott says. “Artistically, I can never get tired of Donny. He’s so complex and rich and full.”
Plus, these roles bring a particular sense of purpose. Bandstand is the first stage show to be certified by Got Your 6, a campaign that supports accuracy in military-themed works of art.
Osnes takes that certification seriously. “Responsibility,” she says, “I love that word to describe this, because we’re all trying to maintain the accuracy of what these people actually went through. It’s an honor, an unbelievable honor, to tell this story, and we hope that people come and feel that.”