There’s nothing quite like an old-fashioned, feel-good big band score… and no group knows that better than the cast and crew of Bandstand, the show that lives in that era night after night on Broadway. The show itself, led by the incomparable duo of Laura Osnes and Corey Cott, is set within the smoky, swingin’ nightclubs of the 1940s, and the score, penned by Richard Oberaker and Robert Taylor, effortlessly exudes the atmosphere of the times. While it’s true these two composer/lyricists are indeed Main Stem newbies, they’ve proved they’re not going anywhere anytime soon with this beyond smashing, all-star debut.
Now, would we be lying if we said the show itself greatly benefits from Andy Blankenbuehler’s expert Tony-winning choreography, an element which the album lacks for obvious reasons and therefore (dare we say it?) suffers without? Not entirely; that is, yes, Blankenbuehler's choreo is masterful — it gives the production an extra visual pop, and is a major contributor to the show’s success as a whole. But for what it's worth, the top-notch score can stand on its own, and to prove it, we've compiled a list of our Top 5 favorite songs off the album, newly released on the Broadway Records label. Have a listen, and we guarantee you’ll be swingin’ with the band in no time at all!
Donny Novinski: Our introduction to the man of the hour (and of the title). Riddled with PTSD, suave and smooth-talking Donny Novinski details his dream of creating a band comprised of fellow war veterans — and taking them to the top of a National Radio Swing Band Competition — as a way “to block out the memories and break [the] insomnia spell” set upon him by the war. The number brilliantly sets the tone for the style of music to come, and provides the perfect introduction to those infectiously jazzy instrumentals (the way that bass line creeps in at the start of the number proper… instant eargasm!) Of course, the smooth-as-buttah vocals of the exceptional Corey Cott ain’t too bad either. 😉 They say cream rises, but we’ve no doubt your play count will too upon first listen!
Love with Come and Find Me Again: Now, for Julia’s “I want” number. First, let’s be honest: when was the last time Lady Laura O opened her mouth and you didn’t immediately melt into the floor? Yeah… okay. I thought so. Delivered by the perpetually flawless Laura Osnes, this torch(ish) song not only brilliantly foreshadows the blossoming relationship between Julia and Donny, but stands on its own as an anthem of hope for any young woman (or man, for that matter) lost in love, or searching to rekindle a love that once was. The lyrics are pure and raw, and Osnes’ emotional delivery so clearly conveys her desperation (and guilt!) over holding on to a past she’ll never get back — as the lyrics say, “clinging to ‘if only’” — shedding light on the struggle of real war widows everywhere, and her bold, mid-song decision to accept what’s gone and go forth into the future anew. While the YouTube samples with piano accompaniment have been a lovely way of tiding us over (and that’s really not a knock… you just can’t beat Seth Rudetsky!), what a treat it is to finally hear that brassy big band accompanying her in the background?! WAIL, TRUMPET, WAIL! An A+ number if there ever was one!
You Deserve It: With the Donny Nova Band slowly coming to fruition, the gang decides to try out a new tune. And try it out they do! I mean, talk about toe-tappin’! A brilliantly crafted number that again showcases the brassy blare of those trumpets (along with rest of the eclectically vibrant band — piano, percussion, the works!), while saluting the troops with lyrics that resonate with both the vets within the show and in the “real world” at large. (Kudos on the double application, guys!)
Carefully chosen words that pop up later in the song (“I look to my left and look to my right and see other guys who fight the same fight…I’m feelin’ the rush”) pack a particularly poignant punch; when one considers they’re derived from Donny’s earlier number in which he details his dream, they here take on new meaning, as the fantasy has obviously now become a reality. (Kudos, too, re: that exceptional repurposing! Well done!)
Simply put, you “don’t need a reason [and] don’t need a rhyme” to listen to this song on repeat! Ready, set, PLAY… ‘cause after all, you deserve it.
Nobody - Another toe-tapper with a luscious big band sound promoting a message of positivity?! The go-to promo song for the show of late (see their recent GMA performance, and of course, their electrifying appearance on the Tony Award telecast), the song urges its listeners not to let others’ doubts about your abilities impede you from actually completing the task. If you believe in something, go for it — no matter what the skeptics say — an incredible important message in and out of the context of the show… especially at this volatile point in our history. Sure, it’s, again, obviously missing Blankenbueler’s stellar choreography (Osnes’ fantastic flip included!), which is truly a great bonus to this high-octane number, but that just allows the listener to more clearly focus on the various instruments within the track — the way the piano elegantly runs down the scale paired with the deliciously rough bursts of the brass, and even a hint of clarinet (those trills as the horns creep in!!) are all enough to get your fingers snappin’ and your body groovin’! So, get out of my way, 'specially if you don’t have something nicer to say… and 'specially if you’re gonna keep me from listening to this track on repeat! Check it out for yourself below!
Welcome Home - Sorry to end on a bit of a downer, but with the themes of war so central to the piece as a whole — and so beautifully expressed in certain songs — you probably knew we couldn't just skim over the issue. Though this particular number, which brings the peril of battle into the forefront and, like Osnes’ earlier number, targets the pain and anguish of what real war widows must have been going through at that time, repeats itself several times throughout the second act — could that be a clue as to its significance?? Hmm?? — it’s its first appearance that warrants the most analysis. For one, there’s the singing. Cott’s voice is utilized differently here — it’s much more of a croon, given the solemn tone of the number — but it's still just as velvety as it was earlier... only further exhibiting his astounding vocal versatility.
Osnes, who’s given the “meatier” portion of the number, again, shows off her uncanny ability to connect with her lyrics — we’re on the journey with her, and we feel the genuine love and care Julia has for her husband just through the slight inflections in Osnes’ voice alone. The decision alone to have Julia express her words through song is pretty strong too, as it emphasizes the power of music, and what it means to both her and the band.
Gotta say, too, the way the song segues into bluesy-jazz territory once Osnes takes over doesn’t hurt matters at all (I mean, it’s not too much of a surprise, as we've shifted into the nightclub scene, but with such a serious message, they didn't have to do that). It gives the song more of a "Broadway showtune" kinda feel, but isn't so overdone that we lose the significance of the message. And of course, the lyrics, coupled with our leads' incredibly moving delivery, pack a particularly poignant punch considering the outcome of the situation. (Can somebody pass the tissues, please?!) So, yes, despite this one not having the swing tendencies of the other numbers we’ve listed, for passionate lyrics and emotive vocal performances, this track’s another winner! Have a listen for yourself… you’ll be glad you did.
So, what do you think? Did hearing these tunes make your “toes start to curl, singing Hallelujah?” If so, download all of them and more from the complete Bandstand album, now available from Broadway Records, and see the show for yourself, now playing at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in New York, NY.