Lisa Condit spoke with Gina Rattan, associate director of Bandstand. The Broadway musical comes to The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory for the Performing Arts Thursday, March 19 – Sunday, March 22. Read on for highlights from the interview or listen to the full interview below, then tune in to WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.
Gina: Bandstand is a musical that was on Broadway in 2017 and tells the story of war veterans coming back from World War II who form a special bond making music together, and also one widowed woman and the bond that she makes with this band making music.
Lisa: I think that the backstory is really interesting and relevant today and people still seem to feel the same sense when they get back to a home that is completely changed. But what’s special about this is that it is an original musical, correct?
Gina: That is correct.
Lisa: There aren’t a lot of original musicals out there right now. There are a lot of remakes. There are a lot based on the movie. Tell us about who created Bandstand and what your role has been as an associate director.
Gina: Bandstand was created by a fabulous creative team, as you said, originally for Broadway. It’s truly based off of the imaginations of the creative team, Richard and Rob, who wrote it, and in collaboration with Andy Blankenbuehler, who was the director choreographer, and Greg Anthony Rassen, who did these brilliant musical arrangements for it because it is every bit of 1940’s style music that you could possibly imagine and love. It’s really such a treat, both musically and also in the staging and conception of the story.
I’m directing the tour, and working with the original Broadway team, putting the show up, casting it and reinvigorating the piece to go on a national tour. It’s really fun to dig into this material, but tough, dealing with PTSD with war veterans. It is really an emotionally moving piece.
There’s heartbreak and there is also great soaring moments of triumph all through the music, staging and scene work between the actors.
Something that is really singular about Bandstand being an original is the people in the piece have to be a triple or quadruple threat. There are musical instruments on stage, which is an amazing thing because it’s about people making music together. You could also say that the folks in the ensemble are quadruple threats because they have to swing dance, and there are some really awesome moves going on there.
Lisa: I can’t wait to see that. There is so much talent in one place. I’m excited to hear more about taking the Broadway production and translating it on to a tour.
Gina: The forming of a show from when it goes to tour from Broadway has its own special process because the needs of the shows are so different. There are specific needs of actors and musicians on stage being able to hear themselves play their instruments and also being able to hear the band, so there are specific sound needs where it might be different at another show. The scenic designers really work with the needs and think about how they can also put it on a truck. If you’re into engineering or building things, this is a really interesting process because it’s like a puzzle. Even with costumes, making sure we wash them, and there’s a whole schedule. Most of the theaters are smaller than the Broadway stage, so we have to figure out how to make the set fit, while also still preserving the artistic intention of the space. It is a set that doesn’t change very much, but it is so rich in detail. There’s lots of really cool artistic things that we try to use.
Lisa: The New York Times calls it an open-hearted new musical that gets the crowds jumping. If was one iconic number out of Bandstand, what would it be?
Gina: I think it’s called “Nobody.” I always call it “You Know Who Tells Me Stop.” I love that number because there’s something that can really only be accomplished on stage. There’s a mixture of defiance and hope, a sense of joy, but also fight. This is the full-throttle stage experience of people says, “I’m not going to give up.”
I also really like one of the first songs called “Donny Novitski.” It’s the lead character’s “I want” song. He’s in a hard spot.
The musical is quite brave because it follows people through the tough parts.
It’s a tour-de-force song about a veteran coming home from the war and he’s trying to figure out how he’s going to form a life alone. He feels totally alone. You follow the journey of this character all the way to the end of the show, and you get such a glimpse into the trials and tribulations and also the triumphs and joy but the setbacks of his life. You’re really navigating it with him.
My last favorite song is called “Who I was,” sung by the character Julia, sung by Laura Osnes on Broadway. Her role in the show is finding her voice, her actual singing voice, she becomes a professional singer throughout the piece and also a lyricist. These are things that she doesn’t know that she contains within her until she joins up with other folks who are going through a similar thing that she is. Her husband died in the war, so she is grappling with similar complicated, emotional moments. She is talking about the conflict of trying to be two people. The community perceives her as a gold star wife. She feels a pressure to fulfill that role, but she wants to go back to being the person she thought she was, but in the musical she forms a new version of herself. She can go forward.
Photos by Jeremy Daniel and Michael Pool.