Post World War II, Veterans Take to the Big Band Stage
Bandstand: The New American Musical
is now up and running at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, where it has been playing since it began previews on March 31, 2017. This new musical has a book and lyrics by Rob Taylor and Richard Oberacker, with music by Oberacker. The show is directed and choreographed by Andy Blankenbuehler, who is best known as the choreographer of such shows as Hamilton
, and Bring It On: The Musical
, only the last of which he also directed. Bandstand
had its world premiere at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey in the fall of 2015, and then it took another year and a half to come to Broadway. With a cast including Corey Cott and Laura Osnes, Bandstand
was always a tricky bet on Broadway – with recognized musical theatre talent but not Hollywood A-listers in the cast, the show was always reliant on an intriguing premise – which is arguably lacks – and excellent reviews – which it did not receive in sufficient quantity. Furthermore, the show only received two Tony Award nominations – those for Andy Blankenbuehler for Best Choreography, and for Bill Elliott and Greg Anthony Rassen for Best Orchestrations – but as neither are awards that necessarily translate to box office, the show may have a tough time moving forward.
Mixed Reviews from the Major Critics
Upon the show’s opening night on April 26, 2017, just in time for the cut-off for Tony Awards consideration, the critics were mixed in their response. Alexis Soloski from The New York Times called the musical openhearted yet indecisive, remarking how it was unsure whether it wanted to be a peppy celebration of the can-do spirit, or a somber exploration of the struggles of U.S. veterans after World War II. Meanwhile, Matt Windman from AM New York was a huge fan of the show, calling it “high-powered” and an urgent testimonial to the healing and restorative power of the arts. Adam Feldman of Time Out New York was also enthusiastic in his review, calling this original musical “resonant,” and remarking that it more often than not delivers on its escapist intentions, walking the delicate line between nostalgia and disillusion. Nevetheless, Frank Scheck from the Hollywood Reporter expressed disdain for the new musical, calling it “at war with itself” due to the somber tone hanging over the attempt to be an exuberant paean to big-band swing. Frank Rizzo from Variety was on the fence, as he called it earnest and often entertaining, but also remarked on its uneven book, undistinguished dialogue, and merely serviceable score.
Mediocre Box Office to Match
Without laudatory reviews across the board, Bandstand
has been having a tough time making money at the box office. In the last reported week of box office figures, the week ending May 28, 2017, Bandstand
brought in $596,302, which represents 57.62% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of $227.00, the average paid admission was $86.25, and the audience was filled up to an average capacity of 83.7% across the eight performances. Over the course of the run to date, the average percentage reached of gross potential has been 53.89%, and the best weekly gross took place in the week ending May 21, 2017, with a gross of $618,912. Bandstand
is currently scheduled for an open-ended run, and the summer months may hold some more promise of interest from the tourist demographic, but unless sales pick up to a surprising degree, the show may not last to the end of the year.