WHAT “Gettin’ the Band Back Together”
WHERE Belasco Theatre, 111 W. 44th St.
INFO $39-$169.50; 212-239-6200, gettinthebandbacktogether.com
BOTTOM LINE Groans and cliches come fast and furious in this cheesy musical.
You can’t say the new musical “Gettin’ the Band Back Together” doesn’t try hard. At one point somebody shoots T-shirts into the audience from a cannon. Marilu Henner, who plays the lead’s mom, passes along Rice Krispies Treats during the intermission. Throughout, the game cast sells the action with undeniable energy — if Broadway quality was measured in sweat, “Gettin’ the Band Back Together” would be a shoo-in for a Tony.
Unfortunately, other factors must be considered. The show is a willfully silly piece of cheese, but that stuff is actually hard to pull off — and “Gettin’ the Band Back Together” is no “Head Over Heels” or “Rock of Ages.”
The title refers to Juggernaut, the combo with which Mitch (Mitchell Jarvis) once won a battle of the bands in his hometown of Sayreville, New Jersey.
Fast-forward 20 years or so, and Mitch has moved back with his mother, Sharon (Henner), after losing his job in finance. As if this wasn’t tough enough, his old foe, Tygen (Brandon Williams), has bought half the town in the intervening years and threatens to evict Sharon for falling behind on her mortgage.
Tygen, however, is willing to forgo the debt if Mitch wins another contest between their respective combos, Juggernaut and Mouthfeel. Tygen fancies himself the reigning rock god of Sayreville, but he’s never gotten over his loss from decades back.
You know that thing about not being able to go home again? Turns out it’s not true: As Mitch realizes, not only can you go back, but you can rock out with your old friends like it was 1996, and even win the girl who once got away, Dani (Kelli Barrett).
Before this happens, though, the book by producer Ken Davenport and comedy group the Grundleshotz takes us through a seemingly endless series of sentimental plot points, cliches and groan-inducing jokes. This is the kind of show where a drama teacher wears a beret and a flouncy scarf, and Mitch’s best friend, Bart (Jay Klaitz), is a stereotypically rotund man-child. Mark Allen’s score consists of nondescript pop-rock tunes — the overlong second act, in particular, is dragged down by a couple of extraneous numbers that studiously avoid making any impression whatsoever. (Sarah Saltzberg is credited with vague “additional material.”)
Thank God, then, for Tygen, a hilariously preening villain sporting highlights and a sycophantic entourage. Gleefully chewing Derek McLane’s cheapo scenery and spitting out the cardboard with gusto, Williams makes his every second onstage count while giving the show a much-needed satirical edge. You’ll be grateful every time he struts back in sight.