This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

26Aug/18

GETTIN’ THE BAND BACK TOGETHER

(photo by Joan Marcus)

Dani Franco (Kelli Barrett) and Mitch Papadopoulos (Mitchell Jarvis) look back at the best day of their life in Gettin’ the Band Back Together (photo by Joan Marcus)

Belasco Theatre
111 West 44th St. between Sixth & Seventh Aves.
Tuesday - Saturday through July 14, $49.50 - $169.50
gettinthebandbacktogether.com

This summer, two new musicals have been undeservingly anchored at the bottom of the Broadway box office, and just by coincidence, they are next-door neighbors on West Forty-Fourth St. One is Head Over Heels at the Hudson Theatre, the sensational reimagining of Sir Philip Sidney’s 1590 Elizabethan drama with Go-Go’s songs and a very funny LGBTQ sensibility. The other, at the Belasco, is the silly but fun, goofy yet charming Gettin’ the Band Back Together. Written by Tony-winning producer Ken Davenport (Kinky Boots, Groundhog Day) and the improv group the Grundleshotz and with music and lyrics by Mark Allen in his Broadway debut, the show might be too long and repetitive and overly self-deprecating, but it’s also a real crowd pleaser about second chances. To stir up enthusiasm, Davenport even takes the stage at the beginning, explaining that the show is based on real-life experiences, including his own time in a high school band. After being fired from his Wall Street broker job, forty-year-old Mitch Papadopoulos (Mitchell Jarvis) returns home to Sayreville, New Jersey, moving back in with his hot-MILF mother, Sharon (Marilu Henner). He encounters his former arch-nemesis, Tygen Billows (Brandon Williams), whose Mouthfeel lost to Mitch’s Juggernauts two decades before in the Battle of the Bands but has won the title every year since. Tygen has also gone on to own seventy-three percent of the local real estate, happily foreclosing on longtime residents while riding around in his sporty Pontiac Solstice and showing off his impressive chest hair. Tygen is even dating Mitch’s high school sweetheart, Dani Franco (Kelli Barrett).

(photo by Joan Marcus)

Sharon (Marilu Henner) is ready to rock out with help from Michael “Sully” Sullivan (Paul Whitty) and Ricky Bling (Sawyer Nunes) in new musical at the Belasco (photo by Joan Marcus)

When Tygen threatens to foreclose on Sharon, Mitch decides that he is going to put the group back together to challenge Mouthfeel in the upcoming Battle of the Bands. So he rounds up bass player and high school math teacher Bart Vickers (Jay Klaitz), who sucks at math; keyboardist and dermatologist Dr. Rummesh “Robbie” Patel (Manu Narayan), whose parents have arranged for him to marry a woman he has never met; and drummer and cop Michael “Sully” Sullivan (Paul Whitty), who is studying for his detective exam and is unable to admit his affection for fellow cop Roxanne Velasco (Tamika Lawrence). “This can’t be my life,” they declare in unison. After adding high school guitarist/rapper Ricky Bling (Sawyer Nunes), they hit the garage and start practicing for the big day while also taking stock of who they are and what the future holds for them. “’Cause dreams don’t matter / when the rent is coming due / You play it safe / and let the fantasy slip through,” Mitch sings, determined to change his path.

(photo by Joan Marcus)

Bart Vickers (Jay Klaitz) shares his unusual philosophy of life with Mitch Papadopoulos (Mitchell Jarvis) in Gettin’ the Band Back Together (photo by Joan Marcus)

Gleefully directed by Tony winner John Rando (On the Town, Urinetown) and playfully choreographed by Chris Bailey (Jerry Springer — the Opera, The Entertainer) on Derek McLane’s emphatically cheesy sets, Gettin’ the Band Back Together recalls the jukebox musical Rock of Ages, and in fact numerous Band cast members are veterans of that show. Jarvis (Rock of Ages, The Threepenny Opera) is relatively tame as Mitch, playing him more as a regular guy instead of a wannabe rock star, with mixed results, as he can’t really belt it out, and he can’t quite generate enough heat with Barrett (Rock of Ages, Wicked). But that is more than made up for by Williams, who in his Broadway bow chews everything up and spits it out with relish, reveling in Tygen’s supposed success, knowingly glancing at the audience, and participating in hysterical rapport with his right-hand man, Ritchie Lorenzo (Garth Kravits), who has a habit of saying too much about Tygen’s father when it comes to words of wisdom. “It’s like my dad used to say,” Tygen begins, with Ritchie continuing, “‘If you’re facing twenty to life, it’s OK to squeal,’” to which Tygen responds, “Yes. No. ‘There are two kinds of people in the world,’” leaving it at that. Whitty (Once, Amélie) is engaging as the doofy Sully, Klaitz (Rock of Ages, High Fidelity) is a riot as the shlubby Bart, who has had a crush on Mitch’s mom forever, and Henner (The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, Chicago) is effective as the band’s main cheerleader. The cast also includes Noa Solorio as Dani’s teenage daughter, Billie; Becca Kötte (Rock of Ages) as Tawney Truebody, a Canadian who is new in town; Rob Marnell as the town drunk; and Ryan Duncan (Shrek, Bring It On) as Nick Styler, a lounge singer at the Peterpank Diner who brings down the house with the saddest, most pathetic and depressing song ever. “Baby, I’m beggin’ you for second chances / The kids all miss you too / So please forgive me and please don’t sue me,” he opines. Gettin’ the Band Back Together is not going to change your life, but it will remind you of those long-ago glory days when the things that mattered, what you thought would always matter, were very different.

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