Gettin’ the Band Back Together review at Belasco Theatre, New York – ‘feeble and undernourished rock musical’
Classic rock tracks are played as you enter the theatre. But the show that follows could only dream of containing a single song of comparable impact.
Prior to curtain-up, producer and co-writer Ken Davenport takes to the stage to trumpet the show’s apparent originality: it has been created through improvisation by a group of 12 writers and actors, collectively billed as the Grundleshotz.
However, it’s difficult to believe it took more than an afternoon of improv to come up with the enfeebled concept here, in which a 40-something man returns to his childhood home in Sayreville, New Jersey after being fired from his job as a stockbroker.
There, he reunites with his school buddies, now unhappily employed as a maths teacher, cop and dermatologist respectively, to reform their high-school rock band, Juggernaut. This leads to a kind of Rock of Ages meets School of Rock battle of the bands, without the score of popular 1980s hits of the former or the child-musician charms of the latter.
It is at once so bad and so bland that it erases itself even as you are watching it.
All credit to the affable actors then, led by Mitchell Jarvis, as the laid-off stockbroker Mitch, and Jay Klaitz, as his best buddy who has long harboured a secret crush on Mitch’s mother Sharon (Broadway veteran Marilu Henner, striking and strident), for turning these two-dimensional characterisations into people with recognisable human traits.
Director John Rando also lends it some shape, even if the destination is always obvious. Derek McLane’s playful cartoon-book sets disguise cheapness as artistic choice.
It turns out that Davenport’s most innovative touch is not as co-writer of his own production, but in conscripting the entire town of Sayreville as co-producers. This will create a kind of alternative form of crowdfunding should they all buy tickets at Broadway prices for the show that bears their name. It doesn’t, however, do them proud.