The best theater productions are the ones that not only entertain us, but give us something to think about, an intangible souvenir we carry in our minds and hearts. Bandstand does just that; the all-American musical represents the best of Broadway, with roaring horns, soaring vocals and electric choreography setting the scene for a poignant tribute to the troops.
The show follows singer and songwriter Donny Novitski, who tries to find his place in the world again after returning home from the war. When NBC announces a national contest searching for music’s next superstars, Novitski assembles a band of fellow veterans, with Julia Trojan, a military widow, helping with vocals. And while on stage, the veterans pour their souls into each note, once the music stops, they each have their inner demons to battle—addictions and neurosis inflicted by their days in battle.
While the show is set post-WWII, its message still rings true today. More than just a show about a music contest, Bandstand is about the emotional toll combat takes on servicemen and women, a burden that is often carried silently and alone.
Being able to share the stories of these veterans, many of whom make up the show’s audience every night, is an “incredible responsibility,” said Laura Osnes, who plays Julia Trojan in the show.
“We are very passionate about telling their stories…their stories need to be told,” said Osnes. “I hope people have a new appreciation [for veterans] and that a lot of people have their awareness awakened.”
The musical not only relies on its lyrics and story to convey its message, but Tony-award winning choreography puts a physical form to the emotional battles many veterans face. The show stays so true to the realities of post-war life, that it was the first Broadway show to be certified by the Got Your 6 organization, a recognition given to groups that portray veterans authentically.
Osnes has been with the show since its start at Papermill Playhouse in 2015, and said she fell in love with the show because of the unique role it offered her, as well as because of the important story it tells.
“It’s been a long journey with a lot of unknowns, but…I was very passionate about the story and the people involved,” said Osnes. “I’m just thrilled we finally found a home on Broadway and are able to tell the story to a wider audience and that people are being moved by it. That’s the most rewarding thing.”
While there are many brilliant shows lighting up marquees on the Great White Way, Bandstand stands out not only for the sheer talent of the cast, but for the important story it tells, a message that stays with audiences long after they leave the Bernard J. Jacobs Theatre.
Find out more about Bandstand at www.bandstandbroadway.com.