Total Rating: 
March 31, 2017
April 26, 2017
open run (as of 5/17)
New York
New York
Tom Smedes, Gabrielle Palitz, Terry Schnuck, Tom Kirdahy, Roger Horchow
Theater Type: 
Bernard B. Jacobs Theater
Theater Address: 
242 West 45 Street
Running Time: 
2 hrs, 30 min
Book & lyrics: Robert Taylor & Richard Oberacker; music: Richard Oberacker
Andy Blankenbuehler
Andy Blankenbuehler

Donny Novitski has big problems. He’s just gotten back from fighting WWII, and he can’t find work. He’s a fine singer and musician, but what he isn’t is younger, as he’s told in no uncertain terms when he’s out job hunting. It’s thanks-a-lot-for-your-service, but there’s the door. Donny can’t sleep at night, smokes way too much, and is haunted by the memory of his best army buddy, Michael “Rubber” Trojan. They were in a foxhole together, and only Donny made it out alive. Now, he’s obligated to keep his promise to his friend and to look out for the widow. What to do, what to do? Donny would rather be anywhere else, doing anything else.

But big break for Donny. He’s being played in Bandstand by Corey Cott, who brings to life this more-than-a-little-screwed-up vet, and makes him sympathetic, even when he’s exhibiting his nasty hair-trigger temper and tendency to self-sabotage. Cott is Montgomery Clift handsome, has a lithe dancer’s body, and hits those really high notes and holds them long enough to turn four chairs on “The Voice,” no question. He’s got that heart melting smile, with just enough bad-boy appeal to make it interesting. But most importantly, he lets us see Donny’s soul, the pain and the humor combined, and his desperation to make good and leave the past behind.

Donny hears about a radio contest, being sponsored by Bayer Aspirin, and offering a trip to New York, a chance to be heard nationwide, and even a shot at being in the movies. He gets a brain storm; an all-vets band is just what’s needed to honor the G.I.s who’ve fought for their country and experienced true horror. He starts by knowing a guy, who knows a guy, and before he knows it, they’ve got a group together, including a slightly loopy drummer, a three-piece brass section, and of course, Donny himself on piano.

Donny works up the courage to see Julia Trojan (Laura Osnes). She invites him to dinner and introduces him to her mom, June Adams. Theater fans are treated to the brief, but always pleasurable, appearance of Beth Leavel. She brings to her role much more than most other performers could offer, and we are left yearning for more. How about a musical about Gold Star Mothers, with Leavel in the lead?

Not surprisingly, Julia and Donny bond, and it’s easy to see that there is more attracting them than their love for the fallen Michael. To top it off, it turns out that Julia has a soaring soprano voice, and makes a perfect band singer. Osnes particularly shines in “Love Will Come and Find Me Again” and “Welcome Home,” at the end of the play.

There are plenty of complications and enough angst and regret to last for both acts. It’s difficult to knit together the plight of the soldiers and the upbeat songs and dances that light up the musical. It helps that the leading actors all play their own instruments onstage and that each individual is a fully realized character. Corey Cott turns the difficult Donny into an Everyman returning from a brutal war; the chance to see him onstage before everyone realizes he’s not to be missed is worth the price of admission.

Laura Osnes, Corey Cott, Beth Leavel, Alex Bender, Joe Carroll, Brandon James Ellis, James Nathan Hopkins, Geoff Packard, Mary Callanan, Max Clayton, Patrick Connaghan, Matt Cusack, Andrea Dotto, Marc A. Heitzman, Ryan Kasprzak, Andrew Leggieri, Erica Mansfield, Morgan Marcell, Drew McVety, Kevyn Morrow, Jessica Lea Patty, Becca Petersen, Kevin Quillon, Jonathan Shew, Ryan VanDenBoom, Jaime Verazin, Mindy Wallace, Kevin Worley
Sets: David Korins; costumes: Paloma Young; lighting: Jeff Croiter
Michall Jeffers
Date Reviewed: 
April 2017