Texas A&M is the opening stop on the first national tour of the Broadway production "Bandstand" in Rudder Auditorium Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
This musical depicts the lives of soldiers who have returned from World War II and are struggling to find their purpose and deal with their haunting experiences by creating a band to win a musical competition for NBC. MSC OPAS Executive Director Anne Black says the performance is a balance of humor, serious topics, music and motions that tell these veterans’ stories.
“I think it's about loss, forgiveness, redemption and finding yourself again,” Black said. “I found it very gripping, and as the daughter of a World War II veteran, I feel like they paid homage in a very appropriate way to the soldiers of that era.”
Since the tour was announced a year ago, the crew has been working non-stop to adapt the Broadway musical into a tour format. Choreographer Marc Heitzman worked with Hamilton choreographer Andy Blankenbeulher on the Tony-award winning choreography for the original Broadway show. Heitzman was made lead restage choreographer in charge of adapting the musical for the smaller, variable stages they will perform on during the tour.
“With the show only having one set, it's the actors job to make sure that you can tell the audience exactly where they are without having three walls, a couch, and a window to make them think that they are in a living room,” Heitzman said. “It’s a beautiful process to see people form those walls without having them there, and that allows for all the actors to be themselves and allow their personalities to come out within the constructs of what the writing originally gave us.”
Tour director Gina Rattan said all the actors play instruments such as the trombone and the trumpet to create the score for the performance, which portrays the underlying meaning of the piece.
“Each of the characters, while they have to stick within the sort of defined character roles from the script, particularly because each actor is also a musician, their personality and their personal stamp on it makes a huge difference in how the role comes across,” Rattan said. “The main message of the story is about being musicians and using music as a language to communicate and music as a language to heal and soothe but also to express anger, frustration, doubt, and fear.”
Though the actors have only been rehearsing for a month, they have spent a lot of time researching World War II and interviewing veterans so they can fully develop their characters and portray an accurate picture of post-war life for the returning soldiers. Actor Scott Bell, who plays trumpet player Nick Radel, formed the backstory for his character around the experiences that the prisoners-of-war had during the Bataan Death March in the Philippines on the Pacific Front.
“I feel that maybe the reason why [Radel] is back now trying to achieve this dream is that so he’s able to put the past behind him,” Bell said. “He can just achieve his dream of being a professional trumpet player and being as big of a star as possible and not have to have his life defined by, even though it’s a part of him always, those stories of war and starving after going through years of torment in the POW camp.”
In conjunction with the military theme, Texas A&M Veteran Resource and Support Center purchased 100 tickets to allow current Aggie veterans to attend the performance for free in honor of their service to our country. Additionally, prior to the performance, the Texas A&M Singing Cadets will have a special surprise for the veterans before the performance begins.
“They will honor each branch of the military and then sing, and I think that’s really going to set the mood for the whole evening,” Black said. “Those Aggie veterans that have come back to school will be joining us, some for each performance, and we’ll be honoring them as well.”
Tickets can be purchased online for $30-$60 at http://opas.tamu.edu/. Veteran and student discounts are available at the MSC Box Office.