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Theatre / Bandstand

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"And I stand here helpless, my arms extended, knowing full well, darling, your war's not ended."

Bandstand is an original musical about a group of veterans struggling with the return to normal life in the US following World War II. It was composed by Richard Oberacker, with lyrics and book by Richard Oberacker and Robert Taylor.

The musical focuses on Donny Novitski, a young singer/songwriter and pianist returning home from war. Although he is eager to return to his normal life, haunted by memories of war, he is unable to find success or fit back into civilian society. He then assembles a band composed entirely of veterans with the aim of winning a national radio contest in New York City. When he meets Julia, the widow of his best friend from the war, she joins the band as their vocalist, but their relationship forces Donny to confront some of the worst memories of the war.

Bandstand provides examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Davy, who liberated Dachau, "drinks a fifth of vodka in his kitchen every night."
  • Ambiguously Gay: Jimmy ignores the female ensemble while his band mates ogle the women in New York, has a considerable wardrobe of plaid pants, and has some delicate flair in his mannerisms. The casting call and a cut scene reveal he is unambiguously gay, starts out with a slight crush on Donny, and his boyfriend was a fellow Navy man who died when their ship blew up.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Donny Novitski, whose Polish heritage is mentioned on and off.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: In "This Is Life (Reprise)," Donny declares his love for Julia right before they deliberately throw the NBC contest.
    Donny: And what I feel for you, Julia, that is true. No matter how tough it is, no matter how long it takes, I need to be with you.
  • Answer Cut: The scene with the contest ends with "The Winner is..." The next scene is the band walking out of the movie theater after watching the movie with the winning band ( Illinois) and complaining about how terrible it is.
    Wayne: I thought we were the losers!
  • Apathetic Teacher: Nick hates having to teach inept young musicians in order to pay the bills.
  • Armor-Piercing Question/Response: Donny drops this line when trying to convince Julia to sing for the band.
    Julia: I don't need rescuing!
    Donny: What if I do?
  • Award-Bait Song: In Universe, “Love Will Come and Find Me Again” is the Donny Nova bands original entry in the Tribute to the Troops. Donny chooses the song thanks to Julia’s lyrics which tell the story of how she lost her husband in battle, thinking it’s a sure fire win for the contest.
  • Awful Truth: Michael died because of friendly fire — caused by Donny.
  • Band of Brothers: The Donny Nova Band, a group of strangers and acquaintances, become "brothers" by the end through their shared trauma and healing.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Julia spends most of the show begging Donny to tell her how Michael died. When Donny finally bursts out with the Awful Truth, Julia is begging him to stop.
  • Berserk Button: For the whole band, people who didn't serve ignoring or dismissing veterans. For Donny in particularly, Frank Sinatra.
  • Black Comedy: Michael apparently had a sense of this before he went to war. Julia claims he made a joke about a girl stuffing her bra enough that, if she caught fire, she'd light up like the Hindenburg.
    • The guys engage in this when responding to the announcement that they were responsible for paying their own way to the contest without a guarantee they'd be on the contest. "What's a little dysentery between friends?"
  • Bread and Circuses: Averted. NBC plans to use the Donny Nova Band for this but the trope is inevitably averted when they sing the original version of Welcome Home in 'Welcome Home (Reprise)'.
  • Bury Your Gays: Justified with Jimmy's lover, a fellow Navy man who died in a shipwreck.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Jimmy is in law school on the GI Bill and calls out various things in the show that are illegal. In the third act, he is the one who can Read the Fine Print to see that the contract they signed with NBC gave them the right to use their song without their permission and without compensation.
  • Disappeared Dad: Julia's father abandoned her and her mother to be with his secretary. They live just a few blocks away too.
  • Distressed Dude: Played with. Donny isn't in physical danger but the trauma he endured in war has left his psyche rather fragile. See Armor-Piercing Question above.
  • The Ditz: Johnny, as a result of injuries he sustained in the war. He keeps reminding people that the truck flipped three times.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: Davy has to explain a couple dirty jokes to Johnny because of his TBI.
    " See, giraffes are really tall..."
  • Draft Dodging: Davy asks the NBC producer if he fought in the war or used his profitable job as a way to avoid it.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Davy and Donny in particular, both of whom are seen drinking to try to forget the horrors they saw firsthand.
  • Everyone Meets Everyone:"I Know A Guy" introduces all the members of the band aside from Julia.
  • Fangirl: Three ambush the band near the end of the play.
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: Julia was baking and covered in flour when she met Donny.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Donny and Michael were brothers in arms and seemed to care for each other a lot. Michael wrote letters to Julia telling her about Donny, and he made Donny promise to check in on his wife if he didn't survive.
  • "I Want" Song: "Donny Novitski," doubles as an "I Am" Song.
  • Heroic BSoD: Julia, after Donny tells her that Michael died because of friendly fire from Donny.
    • Donny has one at the end of the first act. When a producer from NBC, after telling them NBC won't pay for their travel to the competition, which might not guarantee them appearing on TV, says that no one will believe them because "if nobody sees it, it didn't happen." While the other band members lash out, Donny collapses behind the piano.
    • Julia also has a silent one in the opening number, when the choreography shows the soldier coming to inform her of Michael's death.
  • Jerkass: Roger Cohen, the producer in charge of The Tribute to the Troops competition. He clearly has absolutely no interest in any of the bands competing, especially the Donny Nova Band, and acts extremely cold to all of the Vets in the Donny Nova Band.
  • Lethal Chef: Downplayed. Mrs. Adams isn't a bad cook, but she is likely to make serious mistakes, like spilling tons of paprika on deviled eggs.
  • The Lost Lenore: Michael to Julia. Her song "Who I Was" talks a lot about how his death has defined her, and she even asks Donny for details about his death a year after they met.
  • The Maiden Name Debate: variation. Donny suggests that Julia use her maiden name (Adams) for the band instead of her married name, Trojan. Julia refuses because she doesn't want to lose her last link to her late husband.
  • Manly Tears: Donny does this at least twice. Once when he's told that the band has to pay for their own trip to New York, and again when he tells Julia what really happened the day Michael died.
  • Never Heard That One Before: Julia's married name is Trojan. Her husband's nickname in the army (and in high school) was "Rubber." (Donny's actually reluctant to tell her that he went by Rubber until she says that he was called that in high school). She tells the guys that she's heard all the jokes.
  • Not Enough to Bury: the Awful Truth of what happened to Michael. Julia didn't know until Donny told her.
  • Posthumous Character: Michael dies in the prologue but his death plays a large role in the way Donny and Julia interact with each other and influences the progress of their relationship.
  • Read the Fine Print: The Donny Nova Band's contract with NBC. They sign it without reading the fine print, but Jimmy discovers that the contract essentially signs away the rights to the winning song and doesn't even require the studio to give them anything more than background roles in the film.
  • Refuge in Audacity: performing "Welcome Home" on live TV because they knew that if NBC was going to steal their song they would never be able to put a War Is Hell song in a movie.
  • Screw Destiny: Mrs. Adams' song "Everything Happens" is an ode to this mindset.
  • Second Love: Donny is Julia's second love, after her husband Michael's death in the war.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: All the guys of the band, emphasized both in dialogue and in the choreography.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: Davy, several times. The casting call describes him as an "archetypal Falstaff."
  • Sir Swears Alot: Davy, particularly when he hears bad news.
    Davy We came, we saw, we said "Fuck it!"
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: Jimmy Campbell.
  • Survivor's Guilt: Donny Novitski "thinks it isn't fair how he made it out but left his buddy there." Especially because it's his fault Michael didn't survive.
  • This Is Reality: The first version of "This Is Life," Donny and Julia's duet, notes that this would be the perfect moment for a Grand Romantic Gesture if they were in a movie, but that their lives and relationship are considerably more complicated and messy.
  • The Smart Guy: Jimmy, who's using the G.I Bill to pursue a law degree and whose legal knowledge catches the loophole in the NBC contract, saving the band from losing their song.
  • Torch Song: "Love Will Come And Find Me Again" can be considered this.
  • War Is Hell: A major theme throughout the musical, especially present in Welcome Home (Finale).