The first of the Bicknell Center’s Broadway musicals, “Bandstand,” has come and gone from the Linda and Lee Scott Concert Hall.
The Bicknell Family Center for the Arts hosted the national tour of “Bandstand” on Monday, Nov. 4. The show was put on at 7:30 p.m. and the cast and crew came to the building early in the morning on Monday. The Bicknell Center had many extra hands from both the student population and the community to help with load in and load out, costuming, and scene changes.
“Bandstand” is a musical composed by Richard Oberacker and with lyrics written by Robert Taylor. The show follows Donny Novitski, a freshly home veteran of World War II and pianist, who hears of a national competition dedicated to swing music and decides to form a band made up entirely of veterans. The members also struggle with what could be called post-traumatic stress disorder but was undiagnosed at the time. He soon meets Julia Trojan, the widow of Novitski’s best friend who died in the war. Trojan eventually begins singing with Novitski’s band and the band goes on to win the preliminary round of elimination. As Novitski and Trojan become closer, it is soon revealed that Novitski was the accidental cause of her late husband’s death. This initially causes tension between the two, but they eventually make up and confess their true feelings of love to one another. They find out that the contest is a total sham and there is no prize money that will be given out. They end up performing a grim version of one of their songs so as to get revenge on the producers who booked them the show. After the events of the musical, the “Donny Nova Band” becomes a national hit and has great success all throughout the United States.
“I thought it was a super fun show,” said Erica Baldwin, sophomore in music education. “I worked during the day with load in, and I was so excited to get to see the show too…”
Baldwin, like many students and community members, arrived at the Bicknell Center early in the morning to assist the national tour of “Bandstand” load into the building efficiently and safely.
“It was super interesting to get to see all the behind the scenes work that goes into a show like this,” Baldwin said.
The show’s themes focus on veterans returning from the war and what that means. Many veterans had mental health issues after coming home but the medical language had not been developed yet and so many went undiagnosed.
“As fun as ‘Bandstand’ is with its swing music and dancing, it’s also an incredibly powerful piece,” said Joe Firman, director of the Bicknell Center, to Pitt State News. “The show deals with the veteran experience in a very honest way…”
The show was choreographed and directed by Andy Blankenbuehler, choreographer of the award-winning musical “Hamilton.”
“You will leave the theater utterly moved, and humming the tunes for days,” Firman said.