If you haven’t heard the Donny Nova Band play at Broadway’s Bandstand, hold on to your hats. Stars Corey Cott, Laura Osnes, and the original Donny Nova Band—Brandon J. Ellis, Joe Carroll, Geoff Packard, James Nathan Hopkins, and Joey Pero—joined Playbill August 17 at downtown’s Subculture in Manhattan for an exclusive performance and talkback as part of Playbill Presents Pop-Up Performance series.
Bandstand tells the story of World War II veterans come home from the war and a war widow who use the power of music to heal themselves and their community. In a story of friendship and love and through a celebration of music and swing dance, Bandstand has touched audiences since it opened April 26, 2017 at the Bernard Jacobs Theatre.
“From the first time I read the script, the way that our show deals with PTSD and gives honor and tribute to our veterans is something I've never seen in a commercial Broadway musical before,” Cott said at the start of the panel discussion after performing “Ain’t We Proud” and “First Steps First.”
“The reason I talk about it so passionately is because we have veterans coming to our show every day who are saying, ‘You guys are doing it exactly right and I've never seen it done right before,’” he continued.
“I think we’ve all poured ourselves into these roles,” said Osnes. “We really are a band of brothers and that makes it really rewarding and fulfilling to do every night.”
“Being around a group of actors like this who are so committed to the work is always so refreshing,” added Ellis. “Everyone here cared so much about authentically telling the story, the amount of research and outside of rehearsals meeting to talk about out how we could make this work and make it right and knowing that every single person cares about it as much as you do is invaluable and made me fall in love with these people and the show.”
In terms of “making it right,” the cast did hours of research into their characters, including a roundtable with veterans who have served in the United States’ most recent wars. The entire cast shared their most impactful memories from that discussion, including one particular story: There was one veteran who needed purple sugar to make a cake for his daughter and they don’t sell purple sugar where he’s from, but they do in New York City—where the roundtable took place. “He made a point to come in early and look up this baking shop that had purple sugar and he got it before our talk and he was so excited,” Osnes said. “Finding the simple joys in life after the horrors of what he went through that he was just so happy to have that purple sugar for his daughter. So we were all like Let's find our purple sugar moments in the show where these guys suddenly for a minute that burden is lifted. Every day I think about that.”
The cast shared more backstage stories and insider info, including the challenges of playing their own instruments for the full orchestrations of Richard Oberacker and Robert Taylor’s score. “I played the trombone in high school and it's been the hardest thing I've ever had to do is to a) like the trombone and b) like it enough to practice it constantly to get it to a level where I"m playing next to a Juilliard-trained trumpet player,” said Packard. “But those challenges are what bonds us
And if that's not enough we did Whole 30 together which is very challenging,” he joked.
After taking questions from the audience, the Donny Nova Band wrapped up with a high-power rendition of “Love Will Come And Find Me Again.”
Watch the full Facebook livestream above to watch the performances and the full discussion. And don’t miss out on Bandstand on Broadway playing now through September 17.