John Rando Finds the Funny in Gettin’ the Band Back Together

Interview   John Rando Finds the Funny in Gettin’ the Band Back Together
 
How the Tony-winning director behind Urinetown and his team created a Broadway musical out of improv.
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Sawyer Nunes, Paul Whitty, Mitchell Jarvis, Manu Narayan, and Jay Klaitz Robert Ascroft

Director John Rando knows a little bit about bringing unconventional musical comedies to the Broadway stage. He is, after all, the man who shepherded Urinetown to Tony-winning effect in 2001. So trust Rando to know exactly what to do with Gettin’ the Band Back Together, the new musical now in previews before opening August 13 at the Belasco Theatre.

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Brandon Williams and cast Joan Marcus

Attached to the show for six years, Rando has seen the story morph and change thanks to its singular development process: Producer Ken Davenport has worked with The Grundleshotz troupe and together they have created an improvised musical.

“What happened is it developed into a pretty solid script [during the first developmental run] and since that time, Ken has rewritten and rewritten based on everything they did back then,” Rando says during a rehearsal break. “But we do continually tweak things. So it’s a wonderful give and take process to find out what’s funniest. And of course,” he adds, “the music is also rocking and fun and special. And that you can’t improv.”

The story of a man forced by financial circumstances to move back home with his mother and by the prospect of foreclosure to reunite his high school band, Gettin’ the Band Back Together boasts a score by Mark Allen with additional material by Sarah Saltzberg. Mitchell Jarvis stars as Mitch, the prodigal son returning to live with his mother, played by Marilu Henner. Jarvis was part of the 2013 George Street Playhouse production; like him, many of the Broadway cast members are also returning to the show.

For the rest, Rando says the creative team looked for “funny, funny people who made us laugh. I love working with actors who are inventive and who are risk-takers, especially when it comes to the comedy. I like to create an environment that is collaborative and conducive to developing work and ideas, and conducive to taking risks. And having fun, which helps a lot when you’re working on a comedy.”

But Rando is quick to give the lion’s share of credit to producer Davenport. “The whole show was formed by him, he and Grundleshotz created the script, and he’s such a mover and shaker he made it happen.” As for why Rando has remained with the show for almost a decade, he points to the musical’s plot. “For me,” he says, “the story of just doing what you love, even midway through your life, is really important. And it’s a charming, funny show!”

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