Bandstand – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

War is never easy or, in many opinions, a necessary solution to problems. Fighting over a little red truck in a sand box is a far cry from countries amassing guns, tanks and weapons of mass destruction. Yet at this moment in time there are conflicts from drug wars in Mexico and Columbia to terrorist attacks from Algeria and Nigeria to Chad and Sudan to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And when war is finally over, the returning soldiers find life has changed irrevocably since they left.

To enter the minds and hearts of the soldiers returning home from World War II in 1945, look no further than Playhouse on Park in West Hartford’s soul searching musical “Bandstand” playing until August 20, with music by Richard Oberacker and book and lyrics by Robert Taylor and Oberacker, under the skillful and sensitive direction of Sean Harris.

In “Bandstand” we meet Donny Novitski, a dynamic Benjamin Nurthen, a singer/songwriter and pianist, who would like to resume his career on stage but is suffering from insomnia and a secret that is tearing him apart. When he hears about a National Radio Swing Band Competition as a Tribute to the Troops, he excitedly decides he will form a band of returning veterans and enter the contest with the hopes of winning it. Each of his members is suffering from the effects of wartime, from amnesia, being a prisoner of war, a drinking problem, having seen the liberation of Holocaust survivors and mental illness. With his new band of brothers, he adds a wonderful singer, Julia, a lovely Katie Luke, the widow of his best buddy in his unit.

With moving songs like “Aint We Proud.” ”Proud Riff,” “You Become It,” ”Love Will Come and Find Me Again,” “Right This Way” and “Welcome Home,” the new band becomes the Donny Nova Band and suffers from the trials and tribulations of readjusting to life at home and to the disappointments of show business. Their home town of Cleveland helps to work a miracle of promise at the end. A revolving platform is the center of the action with smooth choreography by Darlene Zoller and Robert Mintz keeping the action flowing.

For tickets ($45-55), call Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford at 860-523-5900 ext. 10 or online at Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday at 2 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. with a talk back with cast on Sundays.

Will music and companionship be enough for these great guys to claim victory in their homecoming and spur them on to victory? Come discover for yourself.

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