‘Gettin’ the Band Back Together’ plays an open run at the Belasco Theatre, 111 W. 44th St., gettinthebandbacktogether.com.
Originality (as in not being based on a pre-existing film or song catalog) turns out to not be the equivalent of quality in “Gettin’ the Band Back Together,” a tacky, witless and amateurish new pop-rock musical set in Sayreville, New Jersey, that might have been commendable had it been written and performed by high school students from Sayreville, but is a total embarrassment to find on Broadway.
At my performance, I was surprised to see producer Ken Davenport rush the stage, introduce himself and describe the show as a “totally original musical.” This was apparently not a one-time-only occurrence. The show’s script (credited to Davenport and “Grundleshotz”) maps out this entire sequence, calling for someone to act as a “host,” warm up the crowd and claim to have been in a Barry Manilow tribute band in high school (“The Barely Manilows”).
In “Gettin’ the Band Back Together,” Mitch (Mitchell Jarvis), a hapless 40-year-old investment banker, loses his job on his birthday and promptly moves back in with his mother (Marilu Henner, “Taxi”) in Sayreville. (Mitch seems to have acquired no friends or savings over the course of his professional life.)
In an attempt to save his childhood home from foreclosure at the hands of an over-the-top former enemy (Brandon Williams), Mitch reunites his high school pals and convinces them to join him in competing in the “Western Eastern Central Middlesex County Battle of the Bands.”
Mitch also gets the opportunity to reconnect with his high school girlfriend Dani (Kelli Barrett). In fact, by the end of the show, each of Mitch’s pals (as well as his mother) will find a new love interest. Going through each of these minor characters quickly starts to feel like drudge work.
Mark Allen’s songs — including an opening number where the cast cheerfully chants “In Jersey, hell yeah! It’s a helluva place to call home!” and a rap sequence at an Orthodox Jewish wedding (“When I say Mazel, you say Tov!”) — range from generic to poor to pointless.
The book (which was developed through group improvisation) is hackneyed, long-winded and awkward as it continually strives for laughs with lame setups. Shout-outs are also made to such local destinations as the Paper Mill Playhouse, Hunka Bunka Ballroom, Six Flags Great Adventure and Peterpank Diner.
In an attempt to perk up the audience, director John Rando (“Urinetown!”) employs flashing lights and has actors walking, jogging and dancing in the aisles.
Jarvis and Barrett (both alumni of “Rock of Ages” with great voices) perform with sincerity, but have little to work with, while Henner adequately serves her purpose of being a former TV celeb whose random inclusion in the show may help sell a few more tickets. To her credit, Henner also hands out Rice Krispie Treats during intermission.
Near the end of the show, Mitch receives tickets to see “Springsteen on Broadway,” which has the demoralizing effect of reminding the audience that it is instead stuck seeing “Gettin’ the Band Back Together.”