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Turning 40 Has Never Been So Much Fun!

By Gary Wien


(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- Whether you thought the eighties were awesome or not, you're bound to have an awesome time at "Getting the Band Back Together".    Based on what I saw, the season opener for George Street Playhouse will not only be a major hit locally, but will very likely shoot up the road and be a hit on Broadway for the next few years.  More of a comedy than a straight musical, it's the type of play that has universal appeal; it's got wonderful music, is very funny, and puts forth the optimistic mantra that it's never too late to follow your dreams.  It has just the right amount of campiness, hilarity, and sentimentality; and the music is pretty good too!

The world premiere musical opens George Street's 40th anniversary season. The play begins with a birthday celebration at the office for Mitch Martino, a former musician turned investment banker on Wall Street.  As he holds up a cupcake with a lit candle in it, he quietly sings:

"Happy Birthday... Happy Birthday Mitch
Turning 40... Ain't that a bitch"

In a matter of moments he's fired from his job and forced to return home to live with his mother in Sayreville, New Jersey.  The raucous musical number "Jersey!" (which features the chorus "In Jersey... Hell Yeah!") follows him on his ride via the Garden State Parkway to what he imagines will be his own private hell.  The song sets up one of the major themes of the play -- his hometown may be a great place to live, but it's not New York.  In fact, the song pokes fun at the Garden State by describing New Jersey as "otherwise known as New York, Plan B" -- a line that will play well to New York audiences.

We then flash forward to his childhood rival -- Tygen Billows, the lead singer in Mouthfeel, a band beaten by The Juggernauts (led by Mitch) in the first ever Battle of the Bands competition in Sayreville.   While Mitch gave up music for a career, Bart soldiered on, winning the next 20 Battle of the Bands trophies, touring as the opener for Ratt, and earning enough money from a television jingle to buy half of the properties in town.  As he stares at his Battle of the Bands trophy case, he knows he wants the one that's missing... and one he believes should have been his all along.

It doesn't take long for Mitch to run into his childhood friend and neighbor (Bart Vickers), his high school girlfriend (Dani Franco), and Tygen Billows.  Mitch originally shrugs off Bart's suggestion that they get the old band back together, but a foreclosure notice on his mother's house forces him to rethink the idea.  He winds up making a deal with Tygen: if the Juggernauts win at the Battle of the Bands, Tygen agrees to stop the foreclosures and if Tygen wins he'll get the trophy he's long sought.

Of course, there's just one little problem... Tygen's band has been playing and practicing every day for years and Mitch doesn't even have a band yet.  So, Mitch and Bart try to convince (and sometimes blackmail) their old bandmates to get on board.  One is a policeman trying to pass the detective test (although he hates the job), another is a math teacher (who sucks at math and hates his job), and another is a dermatologist (who basically hates his job).  Mitch learns that the final member, Kenny (as in "they killed Kenny...") passed away a few years ago while playing in a Meatloaf tribute band called Anything For Loaf.

Mitch recalls how the last time he saw Kenny was at his father's funeral.  Kenny was broke, had no job, and was driving around with all of his music gear in a Dodge Caravan.

"I remember thinking, I have a 401K, health insurance... why am I jealous of this guy?" said Mitch as the guys launched into "Kenny's Hymn" -- a wonderful ode to an old friend, and one of the best songs of the show.

Bart recruits Ricky Bling, one of his math students, to replace Kenny after auditions reveal that America is apparently lacking for talent.  Bling looks like he would be better suited for a hip hop group and wants no part of hanging with guys twice his age, but can play guitar like a prodigy and the band eagerly accepts him.

"Getting the Band Back Together" has a bit of everything for the 80s fan.  There are musical numbers which sound like songs you would have heard on the radio in the 80s, scenes that look like MTV videos with lighting and slow-mo effects, Rocky-like montages, a hilarious first gig for the band, a dramatic reading of "Jessie's Girl" -- and even plot twists which involve Mitch's mom and her days a groupie (she prefers the term "traveling rock enthusiast") with a famous musician and her return to the dating world with a surprising new beau.

"Jersey!", "Kenny's Hymn", "Ride On, Cowboy", "Bart's Confession", and "Power Tool" were my favorite songs. The music is mostly comedic in nature, but features strong melodies. You may not remember entire songs afterwards, but the choruses will stick with you and keep the laughs coming.

Throughout the play, we're treated to amazing performances by the entire cast but especially Brandon Williams who steals scene after scene as the "arch nemesis" of Mitch.  Jay Klaitz is wonderful as Mitch's old friend and neighbor.   Alison Fraser is simply amazing as Sharon Martino, playing Mitch's mother with a scratchy, northern New Jersey-like voice and a look as if she's aiming for a reality show of her own.  Of course, Mitchell Jarvis holds everything together as Mitch.  He does a great job of portraying a man who thought he abandoned childish dreams, but learned that sometimes we all need a little kid inside of us.

Written by Ken Davenport and The Grundleshotz with music and lyrics by Mark Allen, "Getting the Band Back Together" is really about keeping dreams close to one's heart.  As Mitch learns, you're never too old for a do-over.



 "Getting the Band Back Together" runs now through October 27th at George Street Playhouse (9 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ). The play is performed in two acts with a 15-minute intermission. It features adult humor and is probably best suited for ages 14 or 15 and up. Think of the humor as if it's of the South Park variety...

All photos by T. Charles Erickson


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Center Players Presents "The Emperor's New Duds"
(FREEHOLD, NJ) --  Center Players Dessert Theater will present a family-friendly production of “The Emperor’s New Duds” at Center Playhouse, 35 South St, in downtown Freehold, NJ from December 7 – 16. A musical adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s the “Emperor’s New Clothes,” the play was written by Bernice Garfield-Szita, who co-directed the production with Enid Bush.
Centenary Stage’s Young Performers Workshop presents 2018 Winter Festival of Shows
(HACKETTSTOWN, NJ) -- Based on the Gospel According to St. Matthew with music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, Godspell is composed of various musical parables from The Gospel. Jesus Christ recruits a group of followers and teaches them various lessons through song and dance. Toward the end of the second act, the show begins to follow a more linear narrative as Jesus is betrayed by Judas and eventually crucified. Performances are Sunday, December 9 at 5:00pm; Saturday, December 15 at 8pm and Sunday, December 16 at 7:30pm.
The Shakespeare Theatre Presents "The Winter's Tale"
(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run from December 5 to December 30. 
American Theater Group Announces Full Cast & Creative For "Tell Them I'm Still Young"
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- American Theater Group has announced the full cast and creative team for its World Premiere production of Tell Them I’m Still Young, a new play by Julia Doolittle, which will run at the South Orange Performing Arts Center from January 24 - February 3, 2019. Joining the previously announced Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Streets, Men of a Certain Age, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) andMichele Pawk (Hollywood Arms, Hairspray, Mamma Mia) are Janice Amaya (Seen/Unseen) and Seth Clayton (The Madrid).
Holmdel Theatre Company Presents 'ART'
(HOLMDEL, NJ) – The Holmdel Theatre Company (HTC) will present 6 performances of Yasmina Reza’s ‘ART’  from December 7th through December 16th. Translated from French by Christopher Hampton, the play tells the story of what happens when Serge buys an expensive painting, and the reactions of his two closest friends, Marc and Yvan, to his purchase. As what begins as a discussion about the quality of the painting that Serge has purchased quickly devolves into petty jabs and personal attacks, the three men border on destroying their friendships.


Broadway’s Mandy Gonzalez LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
Broadway is in the house at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts with a Fearless live concert performance by Broadway star, Mandy Gonzalez!
"The Spitfire Grill" and Caitlin Geisser Return To Their Roots
“I saw something in her that you rarely come across,” recalled Ted Wioncek III, Artistic Director at Eagle Theatre in Hammonton. “She’s more than wise beyond her years; I believe she’s going to be a game-changer and a trendsetter for this art form.”
Broadway’s Next H!T Musical LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s Friday, October 26, 2018, and the Broadway’s Next H!T Musical cast is just about ready to take the stage at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Ocean County College in Toms River, NJ.
The Last Apple Pie: "Apples In Winter" Opens At Centenary Stage
Jennifer Fawcett’s new play centers around a mother in a kitchen, doing something countless people across America will take part in over the upcoming holiday season: making an apple pie.
See Andrea McArdle LIVE! in Annie at Deal Park’s Axelrod PAC!
Leapin’ Lizards! Annie’s finally made it to the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in Deal Park, NJ, and it stars Broadway’s original Annie, Andrea McArdle, as Miss Hannigan!










Event calendar
Saturday, Nov 17, 2018


MUSIC

THE GAY BLADES @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

HERMAN'S HERMITS STARRING PETER NOONE & THE BUCKINGHAMS @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Nelson Riveros Trio: “The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery” @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Hawaiian Music and Hula @ 1867 Sanctuary at Ewing, Ewing - 8:00pm

Pop 2000 Tour @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

THE MACHINE PERFORMS PINK FLOYD @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm

THE FAB FAUX A HARD DAY'S NIGHT AND REVOLVER IN THEIR ENTIRETIES @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

Swamp Boogie Trio @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm







THEATRE

Annie @ Broad Street United Methodist Church, Burlington - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Annie @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 8:00pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Billy Bishop Goes to War @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 2:00pm

Kiss Me Kate @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Phoenix Productions Presents: The Hunchback of Notre Dame @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Enchanted April @ The Summit Playhouse, Summit - 8:00pm

Heathers, The Musical High School Edition @ Pebble Players, Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

Into the Woods @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm

The Drowsy Chaperone @ Lauren K. Woods Theatre at Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 8:00pm


COMEDY

Todd Barry at SOPAC @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm


DANCE

BALLET FOLKLORICO DE MEXICO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


KIDS

ROALD DAHL’S WILLY WONKA JR. @ Ridgewood Ave School Theater, Glen Ridge - 1:00pm and 7:00pm


LECTURE

Mainebiz Health Care Forum @ Mainebiz Health Care Forum, Newyork - 8:00pm

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