Getting’ the Band Back Together review – hilarious, entertaining Broadway musical

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(L-R) Manu Narayan, Jay Klaitz, Paul Whitty (center), Sawyer Nunes, and Mitchell Jarvis. Photo: Joan Marcus.

NEW YORK – The new Broadway musical, Getting’ the Band Back Together, a $13 million venture, directed by Tony Award winner John Rando (Urinetown) and choreographed by Chris Bailey, which is in previews at the Belasco Theatre, and opens on August 13, is a highly entertaining, hilarious, original show, which has an astonishing number of multiple characters excellently blended in and fleshed out, for some rockin’ fun.

If originality in itself were to be the criteria, Getting’ the Band Back Together is a surefire winner. The engaging two-and-a-half-hour musical (with a break in between) had the audience in guffaws for most part, with its relatable riffs, and comic scenarios. The generous doses of sweet nostalgia, infused with romance dexterously woven in – that refused to turn sour, left a smile on most faces as they walked out.

The show, with original music and lyrics by Mark Allen and a book by Ken Davenport and the Grundleshotz, with additional material by Sarah Saltzberg is likely to have a long run on stage. It has great potential for a film version down the road.

The real charm of the musical lies in its excellent bunch of actors who have done fabulous justice to their characters in script.  Considering that many of the actors have regrouped from the earliest version staged in New Jersey five years ago, the chemistry between them, adroit movement on stage – with at times interactive audience participation, and superb comic timing, done with aplomb, is understandable. The musical was first staged at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 2013.

A big boost for the Broadway version is that the town of Sayreville, where the action is based, has come forward to be the co-producers of the show – a first for the latter. Sayreville’s claim to fame is that it’s the home town of Jon Bon Jovi.

Broadway World reported this week that when Davenport and The Grundleshotz, the show’s writers, were creating the show through improv, they visited the town for research in order to lend Jersey authenticity to the musical comedy. The production shot a music video on location there and recently invited Sayreville residents to the show’s final dress rehearsal on Broadway.

Gettin’ the Band Back Together revolves around the fortunes of Mitch Papadopolous (Mitchell Jarvis), an aspiring musician in high school, with a fan following, who perhaps dreamt of being the next Bon Jovi or Bruce Springsteen, with his garage band. But then, like many others who let their childhood dreams fade away when stark reality sets in, and the need to make money set in, moved on to the corporate world, to finally become a banker in New York City.

The show opens with his life plummeting at the age of 40, however, as Papadopolous gets the pink slip, and is forced to move back to Sayreville, to shack up with his mother (Marilu Henner), a piano tutor, who herself is in dire financial straits, and on the brink of losing her house to foreclosure.

Brandon Williams (center) and cast members of Gettin’ The Band Back Together. Photo: Joan Marcus.

The villain of the show, Tygen Billows (Brandon Williams) gives one of the most endearing and rip roaring villain-ish performances on Broadway. His signature amnesia when it comes to rendering important sounding life lesson lines – and finished with all the wrong lines by a faithful sidekick – is one of the comic highlights of the show.

Billows was a rival to Papadopolous in high school, on the music circuit. Despite 25 years on, he still holds a massive grudge, with a bruised ego to boot. Billows challenges the ‘new’ arrival in town to a rematch of their garage bands for one final time, with the promise that he will waive off the foreclosure he’s imposed on Papadopolous’ mother.

Billows wants to salvage his lost pride, and bring total downfall to the ex-banker. Despite his affluent status now, and making heaps of money through real estate investments, Billows’ biggest grievance in life is that one missing trophy from his life, lost to his arch rival more than two decades ago.

That sets in motion a regrouping of his former band, by Papadopolous, which includes the now venerable physician Dr. Rummesh “Robbie” Patel (Manu Narayan), who has finally decided to quit the singles scene, and get into an arranged marriage to an Indian woman as directed by his father, also a physician.

If desi fans were to think that, ‘here we go again, that’s yet another cliched version of the trials and tribulations of Kal Penn in the Harold & Kumar film series’, one is not too far off the mark, as here too, Robbie Patel is in conflict and at odds with his orthodox father with his Indian accent.

But the acts are different, and somehow, in today’s world, if there was no Indian American doctor in a play based in New Jersey – where the desi population is growing every year – it might be hard to believe that such a town actually exists in the state.

Kelli Barrett and Mitchell Jarvis. Photo: Joan Marcus.

The talented Narayan, who made his debut on Broadway with Bombay Dreams, more than 16 years ago, gives a terrific performance in Gettin’ the Band Back Together. The musical is the perfect stage for him to showcase his versatility, be it singing, playing music, or acting, with a flair for comedy.

Bollywood buffs may also find the storyline of Bringin’ the Band back Together to be similar to that of the 2008 Hindi film ‘Rock On !!’, a musical drama written and directed by Abhishek Kapoor, that had actor Arjun Rampal in the lead. The film revolved around the story of a bunch of former band mates who regroup to claim their rightful place in the music world.

The only takeaway though, from scripts like Rock On!! And Bringin’ the Band Back together, are that the world loves a winner, especially the ones who rise like a Phoenix from the ashes.

(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: sujeet@newsindiatimes.com Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)

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