“Bandstand” – The Phoenix Theatre Company

Theater Review – September 24, 2022


The Phoenix Theatre Company, Mainstage Theatre
Phoenix AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

An endlessly snappy musical tribute to returning but war shocked World War II veterans does not produce an exciting theatrical adventure in “Bandstand” at The Phoenix Theatre Company. Although TPTC’s sharply defined staging with a remarkable ensemble of singing/acting/dancing talents isn’t the issue; the uninteresting musical lets the cast and audience down.

“Bandstand” is plagued with unremarkable and easily forgettable songs that sound like cheap carbons of the era’s musical style and the story is riddled with dullard characters whose plight and solution to stop it contains nothing to embrace the audience or challenge the cast.  To waste so much outstanding talent on such mediocrity is sad.

The ex-soldiers reintegrate into a society that respects their war contributions but fails to understand these career-less men where women have emerged triumphant.  The motley group focuses on music to fill their void.  They are joined by the wife of one of their group killed in action.  They ultimately succeed with their own musical creations.  No surprises in “Bandstand.”  Within the first few minutes you gather who these very similar people are and where the overly long show will plod on to tell us what we’ve already gathered.

The show, with music by Richard Oberacker and book and lyrics by the composer and Robert Taylor, is littered with negative issues which explains why its 2017 Broadway run bombed after a scant 166 performances.  The show demands a sharp-penciled editor who could reduce the three-hour running time to a respectable length and with the addition of some creative spark to make these bland characters interesting both individually and in the way they craft a place for themselves.

The musical also needs good tunes that explain characters thoughts and stick with the audience and are not insipid claptrap that lack clever parodies of period songs.  There’s not much show in “Bandstand” to utilize the tip-top cast who present this lackluster tale with enough snap and pop as if it was the world’s best musical.

Briskly moving staging and energetic choreography provide a strong foundation for the musical as does an impressive physical production that brings audiences into the historic period with an appropriately musty and gray appearance.  The cast is led by Alex Crossland’s initially subdued Donny, the listless drifter who realizes his musical acumen can solve his situation.  The band’s other members – John Elliott, Noah Israel, Alan Mendez, Gianni Palmarini, and Zachary Scott Prall – all play their instruments with splashy energy while demonstrating dancing and singing moxie. Jacqueline Brecker is lovingly clueless as Julia, the band singer, while Linsey Maxson is her firm but knowing mother.

TPTC has become the area’s best musical theater producer and their shows always possess a Broadway glean.  “Bandstand” is no exception to the polished TPTC productions but the show is a major letdown so its excessive length makes the final curtain a welcome moment.  “Bandstand” runs through October 23.  To order tickets, call The Phoenix Theatre Company box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: C

3 Responses to ““Bandstand” – The Phoenix Theatre Company”

  1. Peter Smith said:

    Sep 29, 22 at 22:32

    Do not listen to this review. Go see this but yes it is a longer show running at slightly over 2hours (ummmm not 3) without intermission, just prepare.

    I saw this musical years ago on Broadway snd have loved it and talked it up ever since. It is an important piece of work and needed and should be seen by all veterans/military. Others of course should see it too and enjoy it.

    It is obvious this writer does not understand that plays are stories that need to be told, can educate folks on social issues, and is not himself knowledgable on Veteran issues, nor served.

    The music review is really off. The show has some amazing numbers and even better all the actors are playing live instruments. That alone is a reason to go.

  2. Chris Curcio said:

    Sep 30, 22 at 15:30

    Unfortunately your concept of time is vastly off base. The night I reviewed the show it began at 7:30 and I had been told at the box office when I picked up my tickets that the show was two and a half hours. It began at 7:30 and we were walking out of the theater to our car at 10:25. We were parked close to the theater and we drove away at 10:28 so the show was not two and a half hours as I had been told but just a few minutes short of three hours as I said in the review. You, of course, have every right to feel any way you want about the show but telling time is NOT a subjective opinion like a theater review. It is possible that if you did not see the production on the official opening night as I did that future performances may have been shortened if the director felt inclined to strip the show of endless and repetitious character detail that did not help the show or explain characters. I am well aware that the show received some positive and some negative reviews when it appeared on Broadway. Theater reviews are subjective opinions based on the facts as I outlined them in the review. It is funny that most of my reviews in general and of The Phoenix Theatre Company’s productions in particular are extremely positive because as I said in the review, TPTC consistently does strong and very good productions of the many musicals and plays they produce. It is interesting that neither you nor other readers rarely if ever comment on the many favorable reviews I write of this and other theater I cover. Occasionally, any theater has a less than stellar production. Remember also that I praised the cast, staging, and all production aspects of “Bandstand” which were in the norm for TPTC productions. It was the musical I didn’t care for and said so with justification and support. Even great shows like “A Chorus Line” were panned by some critics and audiences. So, you are entitled to your opinion as am I. I trust you have no connection with anyone in the production. A friend “loved” “Bandstand” but later told me that several people in the production were “friends.” And my review of “Bandstand” was NOT a music review but a Theater Review as I labelled it.

  3. Anne said:

    Oct 02, 22 at 14:16

    I totally agree with Chris Curcio. I was looking forward to seeing Bandstand. I love the big band era. I found the music unremarkable. Nothing stuck with me. The plot was weak and frankly boring. Although the dancing was good and the 2 main characters had great singing voices, they had absolutely no chemistry between them. It was hard to believe they were “falling in love”. I couldn’t wait until it was over. It seemed like forever! I was very disappointed. Apparently the Broadway production didn’t set the theater world on fire either. I can see why. I enjoy going to the Phoenix Theater but this was a swing and a miss for me.