Gettin' the Band Back Together opened at the Belasco Theatre August 13, 2018, and closed September 16, 2018. The story of middle-aged Mitch, whose return home to New Jersey brings with it the threat of his mother losing her house and an epic battle of the bands between his high school band and that of his arch rival's, the show gained a passionate following among audience members. For anyone unable to see the show during its Broadway run—directed by Tony winner John Rando with choreography by Chris Bailey—the original cast came together to record Mark Allen's score, available now from Sh-K-Boom Records. Below, Allen shares the stories behind the songs, as well as some of his favorite moments in the show.
Gettin’ the Band Back Together features a book by Ken Davenport (who also produces) and the performance group Grundleshotz, who helped develop the show. Allen penned the score, and Sarah Saltzberg (a member of Grundleshotz) provided additional material.
The principal cast of Gettin’ the Band Back Together includes Mitchell Jarvis as Mitch, Marilu Henner as Mitch's mother Sharon, Jay Klaitz as Bart Vickers, Manu Narayan as Dr. Rummesh "Robbie" Patel, Paul Whitty as Michael “Sully” Sullivan, Sawyer Nunes as Ricky “Bling” Goldstein, Kelli Barrett as Dani, Becca Kötte as Tawney, Garth Kravits as Ritchie, Tamika Lawrence as Roxanne Velasco, Noa Solorio as Billie, and Brandon Williams as Tygen Billows.
The production was produced by Davenport, Hunter Arnold, Roy Putrino, Sandi Moran, Carl Daikeler, Broadway Strategic Return Fund, Rob Kolson, H. Richard Hopper, Richard Roth, Marie Barton Stevenson, Diego Kolankowsky, Marguerite Hoffman, Brian Cromwell Smith, Darrell Hankey, Trevor Coates, Wagstaffe Productions, WitzEnd Productions, David Bryant, Laura Z. Barket, Judith Manocherian, Mach 1 Partners, John McGrain, Steve Reynolds, and Ladybug Productions. The associate producers were Kayla Greenspan and Valerie Novakoff.
What started out as a bit of a Jersey joke song became more of a Jersey celebration song. We wanted to show the people of New Jersey as proud of who they are and where they came from. We also wanted to show more of a contrast between the desires of Mitch, our main character, and the general Jersey pride of the residents. So this seemed like the perfect blend of both of those ideas.
“How Does Your Mouthfeel?”
This has been a foundational snippet of a song for the main antagonists since the very first reading of the show. When the original creative team, the Grundleshotz, came up with the name for the band Mouthfeel, we felt that they certainly needed a theme song. And it sort of became its own animal.
“One of Those Guys”
One of the most rewritten moments of the show (as many “I want” songs are), this song became really pivotal in the foundation of Mitch’s arc. All of our main characters seem to find themselves in a rut, looking for either something they are missing or something they forgot. Mitch has just been reintroduced to his high school sweetheart and the teenage dreams that he left behind. And he shows us, in this song, that the rock n’ roll dreams he thought were too silly to pursue still sometimes “take him away.”
“Gettin’ the Band Back Together”
This was the very first song ever written for this show. I wrote it as a demo to be considered to get the job as the show’s composer. The guys finally decide to take their chance to do “one last show” to save their homes and reignite their passions. Of all of the songs in the show, this one has remained one of the most unchanged. There’s a dash of Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi, and a whole other host of rock inspirations.
“Find the One”
This song was always intended to do several things. It was meant to walk us through an audition sequence for a new guitarist that the band desperately needs and also describe Robbie’s frustration with his life, constantly searching for something he couldn’t reach. Originally called “American Dream,” the song tries to still do the double duty of the audition sequence, but also to give us more insight into Robbie’s character, specifically, while generally just rocking out!
Our male and female protagonists, Mitch and Dani, find themselves thrust back together by circumstances and are briefly whisked away into memories of what they consider to be their best days. As they reminisce about days past, they are both reminded of the dreams and plans they used to have and yet still “wonder what was left unsaid.”
Mitch’s mom, Sharon, has been hiding a secret: She used to be a groupie for Aerosmith in her youth and, what’s more, she even dated their legendary guitarist, Joe Perry. She tries to lift the guys’ spirits by telling them her story about inspiring Perry to write the song “Back in the Saddle.” As she tells her story, Mitch gets a fortuitous phone call, offering the guys a gig at a wedding. Throughout the song, we see the guys begin to find their groove. Wait until the dramatic counterpoint ending for a special call back to another great Act I closer in musical theatre history!
Not being Jewish myself, I sought the input of several Jewish friends as I was writing this one. The band being thrust into an orthodox Jewish wedding was a funny idea from the original writing team and I didn’t want to mess it up! Luckily, with the help of amazing friends along the way and my love of the Beastie Boys, we developed something that truly captures the humor and joy of this show and the journey of the band. I still mouth the words with this one every time.
I wish I could take all of the credit on this one. Although I wrote the song, the genius of actor Ryan Duncan made it work. Meant to be not much more than background music, originally, Ryan turned this into one of the show’s truly unforgettable moments. Every single night it was different and every single night, I completely unraveled with laughter.
“I Just Want Real”
This was one of the last songs written for the show. We struggled to build up the female characters since the beginning, focusing on the story arc of the band members. But it always seemed like the female characters kept falling into the background. So, after several failed attempts along the way, I wrote this song as a kind of late “I want” song for Dani. Although never meant to be a full “what all women want” anthem, I think it captured Dani’s specific journey from the dreams of “Best Day” to a real life lived “closer to the ground.”
“Life Without Parole”
Another one of the songs that has remained largely unchanged since the beginning, this song is the character Sully’s last-ditch effort to really speak his mind and say what he feels. Director John Rando and choreographer Chris Bailey found the perfect, and often surprising, moments to bring the heart of this song to life. One of my favorites.
“Battle of Your Life”
This is definitely your standard “training montage” song. However, the force of that many voices singing, actor Tamika Lawrence’s insane vocals, and a hilarious dance battle between the two bands make this one of the most powerful moments in the show. This song had one of the most dramatic responses from the audience I’ve ever seen. Period.
What to say about this song… Although Ken Davenport and John Rando sprinkled hints about this reveal along the way, I don’t think anyone in any audience was ever fully prepared for this song in the show. This is another song that has remained almost completely unchanged since the beginning. Much of that is due to the genius of actor Jay Klaitz. He has been with the show since the Grundleshotz days and the way he has grown this role and this song is truly a work of art. I was heavily inspired by Boston on this one. They were the kind of band that I felt could really capture the epic-ness of this moment. I could try to describe the song further, but you just need to hear Jay sing it!
“Best Band in the World”
Another late addition to the show, this song was born out of what I can only describe as madness. This was a replacement song for Mouthfeel’s original Battle Of The Bands moment, called “Power Tool.” The original song was a kind of an “on the nose” sado-masochistic free-for-all for the main antagonist, Tygen Billows. When we decided to replace it to make it more character specific, things got…interesting. Basically, what I wanted to do was pretend that I was Tygen and write a song he would have written for a moment like this. So I dove into Tygen’s mind and came out with a dash of metal and a wide variety of insanity. Thanks to Sonny Paladino, Kevin Ramessar, Joe Bergamini and the entire pit orchestra for hearing my original demo and going, “Oh, I know what you mean” and melting my face off every night!
Arguably the theme of the show, this song has pretty much stood the test of time as well. Mitch and the Juggernaut band have been, once again, undermined by Mouthfeel’s antics in their final performance. Yet, despite the setback, Mitch steps up to the mic to make up a song, on the spot, that reminds us that we all “still have time to take a do-over.”
This was the joy of every night for me. The entire cast, onstage, telling an audience who was on its feet, covered in joy and confetti, to remember those dreams they put aside and “go get your band back together.” I would argue that this moment holds the most joy most people have seen on Broadway in ages. And don’t forget to stay tuned for a few seconds after the last note to hear Tamika Lawrence, Becca Kotte, and Jasmin Richardson do their take on the title song. I swear, when you hear it, you will smile. Dare you not to!