Posted in musical, Musical drama, musical theater

Swing time

5007History lives through the music of an era and its lessons often resonate  with us across our own times.

Bandstand, at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in an open run takes us back to the swing era just after WWII. America is on a road to recovery, as veterans are returning from overseas battles.

5025Big-band music, written by Richard Oberacker (music, book and lyrics) and Robert Taylor (book and lyrics), is a welcome and original addition to the big Broadway musical mix. Bandstand, with orchestrations by Bill Elliott and Greg Anthony Rassen, is indeed, as it claims, The New American Musical. Jazz is the all-American musical idiom, after all, and this blockbuster is jazzy.

The music devised to cheer up a post war world offers a big backdrop for a big-hearted theatrical feast.

5019On its face, the story has an old-fashioned movie plot feel, but Bandstand goes much deeper. Donny Novitski (Corey Cott) comes back from fighting overseas to create a band with his fellow vets. He teams his band mates with a lovely war widow, Julia Trojan (Laura Osnes) and enters them in a national contest. He intends to win. After this, lots happens to change it from the ordinary. Suffice it to say, you will enjoy the twists, which we won’t reveal.

The band Donny puts together include the level-headed Jimmy Campbell (James Nathan Hopkins) and the charismatically off-the-rails Davy Zlatic (Brandon J. Ellis). Each man leads him to another one who served. Nick Radel (Alex Bender) is an ambitious horn player. The shell-shocked Wayne Wright (Geoff Packard) attempts to reset the world by tidying everything he touches. Johnny Simpson (Joe Carroll) still keeps time with his drums, but is locked in to a moment in time.

5008Donny’s–check that– their fallen comrades people their on-stage memories and act as inspiration for the band.

Each of these talented actors plays his instrument in the on-stage band, backed by a full-pit orchestra under Fred Lessen’s baton.

The songs that Rob Taylor and Richard Oberacker have created for the show move the story along, and tell it in so many special moments. Julia’s mother, Mrs. June Adams (the wonderful Beth Leavel) has one great one, when she encourages her daughter with a particularly apt tune, “Everything Happens” in the second act.

Bandstand is directed and choreographed by Tony-winner (for choreography for Hamilton) Andy Blankenbuehler.  Both his direction here and his choreography for the large ensemble are memorable. The Jacobs theater is chock-full with talent, and sound, and dancing. In fact, this joint is jumping. Watch the jitterbug explode on stage.

The costumes by Paloma Young are terrific; the sets by David Korins magically represent the places in the story.

In emotional and stirring roles, Osnes and Cott are overwhelming and genuine, as are the rest of the cast. Of course, they also shine as musicians and singers. Bandstand is a thrill and a gas.

For more information about and tickets for Bandstand, The New American Musical please visit http://bandstandbroadway.com/

Posted in based on a true story or event, bio-musical, musical theater, theater

“Hamilton” is still A Perfect 10!

Alexander Hamilton was this country’s first banker-in-chief, a job which the young revolutionary fulfilled with the same brilliance and passion of all his endeavors. We commemorate him on our ten dollar bill, but are largely unaware of his contributions to his country of choice –yes, he was, like so many of us, an immigrant.

Alexander Hamilton’s life played out on the broad stage of a nascent United States.

Lin-Manuel Miranda has put him center-stage in the radically new bio-musical, Hamilton, which recently transferred from the Public to the Richard Rodgers in an open run.

Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, and Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton Photo © Joan Marcus
Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, and Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton Photo © Joan Marcus

The trip uptown from Astor Place has only given Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton a bigger stage on which to play out its amazing history of the founding of the United States. The stage at the Richard Rodgers should be familiar to Lin-Manuel Miranda since his Tony winning In The Heights was there for nearly three years, with Miranda in the lead as Usnavi for a good chunk of that time.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and the company of Hamilton. Photo © Joan Marcus
Lin-Manuel Miranda and the company of Hamilton. Photo © Joan Marcus

 

 

In Hamilton, for which he created the book (based on Ron Chernow’s biography, Alexander Hamilton,) wrote the lyrics, and composed the music, Miranda is the titular striver.  The story follows Alexander Hamilton from his arrival as an impoverished 19-year old to New York from the small island of Nevis in the Caribbean through his illustrious career as revolutionary, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and George Washington’s (Christopher Jackson) Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton is a firebrand, and his fervor spills over making his relationships, even with Washington who is supportive of his ideas and career, difficult. (See our tweet as part of this commentary.)

Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom, Jr.) advises Alexander early on to “talk less, smile more.” Eventually, Alexander Hamilton, despite his contentious personality. forges a near miraculous agreement with Thomas Jefferson (Daveed Diggs) and James Madison (Okieriete Onaodowan). The Congress approves a unified central bank under which the new democracy flourished.

Alexander Hamilton was nothing if not determined. As he and the Marquis de Lafayette (Daveed Diggs, again) put it, “We’re immigrants; we get things done.” Hamilton gains General Washington’s trust because he never gives up on his principles.

Hamilton’s wife, Eliza (Phillipa Soo), and her sister Angelica (Renée Elise Goldsberry), from the prominent Schuyler family, are both devoted to him. Angelica is his intellectual equal and a champion of his ideas. Their sister, Peggy (Jasmine Cephas Jones) looks like she, too, fell under the spell of his charismatic drive. Alexander Hamilton was something of a lady’s man, it seems.

In the course of some three hours, the United States emerge from the colonies, America elects its third President– Thomas Jefferson, who wins the 1800 election against Burr with Hamilton’s endorsement–, and Burr is embittered by his failure to prevail. All this history unravels in anthems of rap and hip hop, pop and love songs.  King George (Jonathan Groff) laments his unfaithful colonies in a British pop tune mode. This tuneful sampling is a brilliant reflection of the spirit of revolution and renewal that Hamilton (and the period it depicts) represents.

The outsider’s story is America’s story. We are a nation, like Alexander Hamilton, of people who came from elsewhere to succeed, or as a Hamilton song puts it get “My Shot,” here.

Hamilton, under Thomas Kail’s direction of the no-less than brilliant cast and with Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography for the excellent ensemble of “back-up” dancers and players, is the most entertaining history lesson ever devised. Hamilton is no less than genius!

(Previous mentions on T and B On The Aisle and elsewhere by Tamara Beck may have understated how great a musical Hamilton really is:  http://wp.me/p5jq0w-mWhttp://wp.me/p5jq0w-5ehttp://wp.me/p5jq0w-iKhttp://wp.me/p5jq0w-vx.)

Also, see what I had to say about Hamilton at VevlynsPen.com.

For tickets to the season’s hottest new show, please visit www.hamiltonbroadway.com/

 

 

Posted in based on a true story or event, bio-musical, musical theater, theater

A Perfect 10!

Alexander Hamilton was this country’s first banker-in-chief, a job which the young revolutionary fulfilled with the same brilliance and passion of all his endeavors. We commemorate him on our ten dollar bill, but are largely unaware of his contributions to his country of choice –yes, he was, like so many of us, an immigrant.

Alexander Hamilton’s life played out on the broad stage of a nascent United States.

Lin-Manuel Miranda has put him center-stage in the radically new bio-musical, Hamilton, which recently transferred from the Public to the Richard Rodgers in an open run.

Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, and Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton Photo © Joan Marcus
Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, and Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton Photo © Joan Marcus

The trip uptown from Astor Place has only given Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton a bigger stage on which to play out its amazing history of the founding of the United States. The stage at the Richard Rodgers should be familiar to Lin-Manuel Miranda since his Tony winning In The Heights was there for nearly three years, with Miranda in the lead as Usnavi for a good chunk of that time.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and the company of Hamilton. Photo © Joan Marcus
Lin-Manuel Miranda and the company of Hamilton. Photo © Joan Marcus

 

 

In Hamilton, for which he created the book (based on Ron Chernow’s biography, Alexander Hamilton,) wrote the lyrics, and composed the music, Miranda is the titular striver.  The story follows Alexander Hamilton from his arrival as an impoverished 19-year old to New York from the small island of Nevis in the Caribbean through his illustrious career as revolutionary, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and George Washington’s (Christopher Jackson) Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton is a firebrand, and his fervor spills over making his relationships, even with Washington who is supportive of his ideas and career, difficult. (See our tweet as part of this commentary.)

Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom, Jr.) advises Alexander early on to “talk less, smile more.” Eventually, Alexander Hamilton, despite his contentious personality. forges a near miraculous agreement with Thomas Jefferson (Daveed Diggs) and James Madison (Okieriete Onaodowan). The Congress approves a unified central bank under which the new democracy flourished.

Alexander Hamilton was nothing if not determined. As he and the Marquis de Lafayette (Daveed Diggs, again) put it, “We’re immigrants; we get things done.” Hamilton gains General Washington’s trust because he never gives up on his principles.

Hamilton’s wife, Eliza (Phillipa Soo), and her sister Angelica (Renée Elise Goldsberry), from the prominent Schuyler family, are both devoted to him. Angelica is his intellectual equal and a champion of his ideas. Their sister, Peggy (Jasmine Cephas Jones) looks like she, too, fell under the spell of his charismatic drive. Alexander Hamilton was something of a lady’s man, it seems.

In the course of some three hours, the United States emerge from the colonies, America elects its third President– Thomas Jefferson, who wins the 1800 election against Burr with Hamilton’s endorsement–, and Burr is embittered by his failure to prevail. All this history unravels in anthems of rap and hip hop, pop and love songs.  King George (Jonathan Groff) laments his unfaithful colonies in a British pop tune mode. This tuneful sampling is a brilliant reflection of the spirit of revolution and renewal that Hamilton (and the period it depicts) represents.

The outsider’s story is America’s story. We are a nation, like Alexander Hamilton, of people who came from elsewhere to succeed, or as a Hamilton song puts it get “My Shot,” here.

Hamilton, under Thomas Kail’s direction of the no-less than brilliant cast and with Andy Blankenbuehler’s choreography for the excellent ensemble of “back-up” dancers and players, is the most entertaining history lesson ever devised. Hamilton is no less than genius!

(Previous mentions on T and B On The Aisle and elsewhere by Tamara Beck may have understated how great a musical Hamilton really is:  http://wp.me/p5jq0w-mWhttp://wp.me/p5jq0w-5ehttp://wp.me/p5jq0w-iKhttp://wp.me/p5jq0w-vx.)

Also, see what I had to say about Hamilton at VevlynsPen.com.

For tickets to the season’s hottest new show, please visit www.hamiltonbroadway.com/