Ashley's Assessment · Broadway

Why I’m Grateful for Bandstand

A year ago today, Bandstand had its last performance on Broadway.

A year has passed since Corey Cott played Donny Novitski and sang about how “bobby soxers swoon at (his) charms.” A year has passed since Laura Osnes played Julia Trojan and had her poetry used as inspiration for songs. A year has passed since the Donny Nova Band played at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre and wowed a theatre full of fans with its talent and intensity. A year has passed since the stage at the Jacobs Theatre featured Tony Award-winning choreography. A year has passed since an underrated musical took the stage for one last time.

In that year, a lot has happened, and a lot has changed. A majority of the company are doing new shows, and the Jacobs Theatre is set for its second show since Bandstand’s closing. But the Donny Nova Band also continued to play shows together, and a filmed version of Bandstand was shown in movie theaters twice.

Even after a year since its closing, Bandstand continues to make an impact, including one on me. And I love and am more grateful for it now than ever before.

It got me interested in Broadway.

I had only seen two Broadway musicals before I saw Bandstand: Phantom of the Opera in Chicago and Miss Saigon on Broadway. I thought Broadway and musical theatre was cool, but I didn’t have much of an interest in it.

That changed with Bandstand.

Interestingly enough, the announcement of Bandstand’s closing prompted me to watch the musical for a second time. I started listening to the cast recording constantly to prepare for the show again. It was after that second time that I truly came to love the show. Once that happened, I felt prompted to learn more about other shows, so I did just that.

I bought the digital version of Newsies (the Broadway musical), and I watched Miss Saigon (the West End professional recording) again. I listened to the Dear Evan Hansen cast recording and finally checked out the Hamilton cast recording. I listened to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella and saw the show when it was in Chicago earlier this year. I even watched the Tony Awards for the first time and went to my first Broadway in Chicago concert.

Now, I have a growing list of musicals I want to see, I listen to show tunes most of the time, and Broadway is my biggest non-basketball interest. Because of this, it’s a bit strange to think there was a time when I wasn’t interested in Broadway. I have no clue how I got through basketball offseason without it.

If it wasn’t for watching Bandstand a second time, I never would have realized how great musical theatre could be, and I never would have felt inclined to see what other shows had to offer.

It introduced me to Corey Cott and Laura Osnes.

Two reasons why Bandstand was phenomenal are because of Corey Cott and Laura Osnes, the leads of the show. They are both such powerhouses with amazing voices.

When I first started listening to the Bandstand cast recording, I fell in love with Corey’s voice and would internally swoon each time I heard him sing the word “hallelujah” because it sounded that good—and I still do. He’s also a tremendous actor, and his performance as Donny Novitski in Bandstand should have earned him a Tony nomination—not that I’m qualified to make such statements, but that is how strongly I feel about Corey’s performance.

Meanwhile, Laura has the voice of an angel. She would be the perfect person to voice a Disney princess, so get going on that, Disney. In fact, as the Broadway’s original Cinderella from the Rodgers and Hammerstein version, I have declared her as my favorite princess, because she is amazing.

I absolutely adore them both now and will support all of their future endeavors. They’re easily my Broadway favorites.

It gave me a chance to watch one of my favorite dancers perform.

Despite living in New York for the summer that Bandstand was on Broadway, I probably never would have even known about the show if not for Ryan Kasprzak, one of my favorite dancers.

I first heard about Ryan on season five of So You Think You Can Dance when he and his brother, Evan, both auditioned. I’ve been following both of their careers since. As such, when Ryan joined the cast of Bandstand, I instantly knew I wanted to watch the show. It didn’t even matter what the musical was about; the opportunity of getting to see one of my favorite dancers perform live was more than enough for me.

I’d only really ever seen Ryan perform on SYTYCD and in some videos on the Internet, so getting to not only watch him dance live but in his first Broadway show was great. It had also been a while since I had watched him dance, so it was cool getting to be reminded of why I was a fan of his.

It showed me why I should appreciate ensemble members more.

Appreciating the talents of the main cast of a Broadway show is easy to do. They’re in the spotlight and get a lot of the attention, but it’s important to appreciate the ensemble as well.

Bandstand is a dance-heavy show, but it’s not the main cast that does the majority of the dancing. In fact, the amount of dancing the main cast members do in Bandstand is minimal compared to that of the ensemble. The aforementioned Ryan Kasprzak and the other ensemble members performed fun, authentic, difficult, Tony Award-winning choreography seemingly flawlessly. They did such a fantastic job and provided me with a reminder as to why everyone in the company deserves appreciation.

It made my summer in New York feel less lonely.

As an introvert, I don’t mind solitude at all. Rather, there are plenty of times in which I want solitude. However, that doesn’t mean I always want to be on my own. But my summer in New York was one I did on my own.

As an identical twin who has spent most of her life doing everything with my twin, being on my own wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. But it still sucked, and loneliness was inevitable at times. It also didn’t help that, as an introvert, I don’t simply make friends easily. One summer wasn’t enough for me to create legitimate friendships with anyone.

But getting into Bandstand made being alone easier. I was developing a new interest and learning. The cast recording accompanied me and took my mind off of being and having to do everything on my own. Having a show to look forward to going to was nice, too.

It taught me to be more grateful for the military and veterans.

Bandstand is a musical about a group of World War II veterans who have just returned home from the war and come together to form a swing band that will compete in a national songwriting competition. The song to be written is one that is meant to be a tribute to the troops, but the competition doesn’t necessarily praise the troops.

That said, there’s a significant military aspect to it, and the company would actually always dedicate a show to a particular veteran. Eventually, one of the walls in the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, where Bandstand was performed, turned into a veterans wall filled with pictures of those they had dedicated shows to.

There have been a lot of movies, shows, and other forms of entertainment that focus on war and service members. But what’s great about Bandstand is that the people involved took the time to make sure they tell veteran stories accurately. It was even the first theater production to be Got Your 6-certified. They honored and respected them in doing so, and I always think of Bandstand and how veterans should be thanked for what they do, because all they’re trying to do is make sure we’re safe.

It contributed to the mental health conversation.

With the accurate military portrayal in Bandstand, post traumatic stress disorder played a critical role in the show. The band in the show, the Donny Nova Band, is comprised of six World War II veteran and a Gold Star wife (the widow of a deceased military member). They all have issues stemming from the war and deal with it differently.

From insomnia, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, alcoholism, and more, Bandstand did not shy away from what it’s like to live with mental health problems. As someone who does her best to be an advocate for mental health, I really appreciated the acknowledgement of such.

It helped me be more analytical.

Bandstand was directed and choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler, the choreographer for Hamilton. It was the first show he directed, and he did so wonderfully. His dual role of director and choreographer allowed for some intricate, intelligent ways of storytelling that wouldn’t necessarily be noticed if you don’t analyze the show.

As a writer, someone who enjoyed English class, and considers herself a nerd, I enjoy and can’t help but analyze things, and it’s fun and cool to pick out non-linear ways of telling stories. It can also make for a more beautiful message. For example, the way ensemble members were used to represent burdens the veterans were still carrying from the war was brilliant.

Getting to analyze Bandstand and pick out the less obvious ways Andy Blankenbuehler chose to tell the story was really cool and helped me learn to be more analytical.

It brings me joy (and sometimes sadness, but that’s okay, too).

Simply put, Bandstand makes me happy: the story, the music, the characters, the cast. I love it all. Sometimes such a love can also make me so emotionally invested that the same story, music, characters, and cast can make me sad. But it’s not a sadness that necessarily stems from pain; it’s of love. That’s not to say there aren’t sad moments, but it isn’t the sadness that makes me sad. It’s my investment in the story, characters, and people.

Bandstand has brought me so much joy and continues to do so even a year after its closing, and I’m grateful for that more than anything else.

Check out our other Bandstand blog posts:


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