The Band Plays On

The 1980's are a period that many people would rather forget, but authors Becky Eldridge and Amy Peterson and composer Andy Eninger have given us something wonderful to remember in Band Geeks: A Halftime Musical, playing at the Lucille Lortel Theater as part of the New York International Fringe Festival. This 80's-style musical is about a band full of social misfits trying to earn respect in a small town ruled by sports. The opening song, "Band Camp," introduces the eclectic mix of characters in a campy, high-energy dance number that features each band geek giving a musical monologue before hopping on the bus to band camp. We hear introductions from a pregnant teen, a dark goth chick, a Mennonite, a shy freshman with scoliosis and acne, an awkward orphaned boy living with his grandmother, and three seniors intent on ruling the camp and hazing freshmen. We also meet their hilarious chaperone, Mrs. Love, played by male actor Ed Jones in drag.

Unfortunately for this group of geeks ready to ship off to camp, the jocks have come to bid them farewell. Anyone who has ever dreaded gym class will love this play's depiction of the die-hard athletes who sing their praises of sports before falling to their knees and lamenting that this will be the best days of their lives before they grow up and "marry a nasty wife," lose their hair, and watch their muscle turn to fat.

But while most of the songs have catchy tunes and silly lyrics, you will occasionally catch a solemn note. At a car wash fund-raiser, the girls in the band sing about embracing physical insecurities in the song "Use What You Got." And when the kids falter before a big game, Mr. Bradford (Ross Foti), their band director, tells them, "If you can't find the rhythm and you don't know what to do, just listen to your heartbeat, 'cause the music's in you."

Audience members are also invited to embrace their inner dork by participating in the action. Two people are pulled from their seats to challenge a trumpet player for his spot, while others are given pompoms to wave at a football pep rally. Band Geeks: A Halftime Musical ends on an uplifting note for everyone, as the kids come to realize that it is O.K. to be a geek when you have your band behind you.

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