By Joseph Cervelli
Poor Mitch Papadopoulos. The stockbroker looks quite forlorn in the first scene in the exuberant, fun-filled and crowd pleasing new musical “Getting’ The Band Back Together” at the Belasco Theater. It is Mitch’s birthday and he has lost his job. So, what is this 40 year old played with dynamic energy by Mitchell Jarvis going to do except move back to Sayreville, NJ to live with his sultry looking mother Sharon played with vivacity by Marilu Henner. He finds out that her and his friend Bart Vickers’ (gleefully played by Jay Klaitz) houses are being foreclosed by the villainous Tygen Billows (a hilariously evil Brandon Williams.) Bart is the math teacher who has little knowledge of the subject but if you start to question things in this show it will defeat its purpose which is just to tickle you silly. It may be an original musical but there is not a lot of originality for it is a takeoff of other shows, such as, “School of Rock” as well as references to other musicals. Bart also has a not so secret desire for Sharon which he graphically sings to a mortified Mitch in the playfully distasteful “Bart’s Confession.” The buffed Tygen who is the perfect example of brawn minus the brains, is full of malapropisms and generally walks off the stage looking at the audience with a smugness before finishing the end of what he wants to say. He is accompanied by his two equally dopy cohorts played with zestful enthusiasm by Ryan Duncan and Garth Kravitz. Kravitz doubles as the emotionally overwrought lounge singer Nick Styler and has the show stopping “Second Chances.”
Mitch makes a deal with Tygen who will forgo the foreclosures for a chance to regain a trophy he lost to Mitch’s band when they were back in high school. Thus there is a battle of the bands. Mitch wants to reunite the original band which includes Bart; Sully Sullivan (Paul Whitty) who is a policeman not really interested in continuing his job; the dermatologist Robbie Patel (Manu Narayan) who does not want the arranged wedding his father has planned; sixteen year old student of the lovable Bart w Ricky Bling (a terrific Sawyer Nunes) who rocks a Jewish wedding as a rap singer.
There needs to be a love interest and Kelli Barrett perfectly fits the bill as waitress Dani Franco. If all of this written by Ken Davenport and The Grundleshotz sounds terribly trite, well, it actually is. But one of the reasons why is all works besides the tremendously talented cast is that it has both a catchy score and some wonderfully funny and purposely insipid lyrics by Mark Allen.
Derek McLane has created a set that is reminiscent of a small town with a traditional New Jersey diner which is named after one that was sadly torn down, the popular PeterPank. And his amusement park set with great lighting Ken Billington may not look like Great Flags Great Adventure but captures it enough.
Chris Bailey’s choreography may not be all that inventive but it surely is energetic and the wonderful John Rando (“Urinetown”) is the perfect spearhead for this type of show with his lightening speed direction.
Don’t look too hard at the material and you should just have a blast which is what those involved intended.
PHOTOS: JOAN MARCUS