Final Bow: Corey Cott Prepares for Life as a Bandstand Veteran
Cott measures his Broadway run in visits from war heroes, old piano teachers, and a brand-new baby boy.
Corey Cott stars as Donny Novitski, a World War Two veteran who uses music (a jazz-filled score by Rob Taylor and Richard Oberacker) to readjust to civilian life in 1940s Ohio. The show is Cott's third on Broadway, but it marks his first time building a character from the ground up. He, alongside costar Laura Osnes, led the show from its 2015 debut at Paper Mill Playhouse to the Broadway stage, during which time Cott also welcomed the arrival of his first child. It's been a life-changing two years for the stage actor, and he graced us with a few of the highlights before crooning his last tune from the bandstand.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
1. What is your favorite line that you get to say?
There's a speech I have at the end where I say, "Let's tell the truth and let the guys who made it home know that somebody out there has got their backs." A lot of times I get a really good response from the audience. It feels like we're connecting with people.
2. Everyone loves inside jokes. What is the best one from your show?
There was an article or press release that called our show Bandsand without a "t." So Nate Hopkins and I, for the past four months, have done an improv every night and we've gone on to write almost an entire kids' television show about what Bandsand the Musical would be. The tagline is just: "There's lots of sand."
3. Every show experiences technical difficulties. What was the worst technical difficulty experienced during your show, and how was it handled?
I play a keyboard onstage, so there have been a few times when my keyboard hasn't come on. So that's been interesting because there's this 10-second dialogue that goes on between me and the pit that's like, "One of you guys has to come in and accompany me right now because this keyboard just went out."
4. What was the most "interesting" present someone gave you at the stage door?
I took piano lessons for three or four years when I was a little kid. The woman who taught me piano came to the show, and I had not seen her since 1998 or '97. The last song that we played together was "The Entertainer," and she brought a little tin statuette that played "The Entertainer." That was a really cool blast from the past.
5. Who is the coolest person that came to see your show? (You can't say your family!)
We had four-star general George Casey at the show. He is now chairman of the board of the USO. Any veteran that's come to our show and expressed their gratitude — that's been the coolest thing for me. Because we're telling their stories, and they've been so overwhelmingly effusive and supportive and congratulatory. I'll never ever forget meeting those people.
6. What has been the most moving story you've heard from a veteran that's come to see the show?
One man said that he lost 25 friends of his in Vietnam and felt like our show captured everything that he had gone through for the past 40 years. I don't know how you can hear that and not immediately start weeping. Another guy who was a Vietnam vet said he'd never felt proud to be a vet until he saw our show. There are endless stories like that. I don't know how to process it all the time because it's really intense, but I'm thankful for it.
7. You and your wife had your first child this past spring. What are you most looking forward to doing with your son once the run is over?
He's really young — he's only four months old. But I am very much looking forward to just playing with him every day — going on walks with him and my wife and going and visiting family and taking him to meet people he hasn't met yet. I'm a morning person, so I'm excited to have early mornings and just hang with him, talk to him, and sing to him.
8. Having brushed up your piano skills for this show, what was the hardest song to learn to play for the show?
The one I practiced the most was "Love Will Come and Find Me Again," which is Laura's song. I wanted Laura to sound good. I didn't want to screw up one of her big songs.
9. You and Laura have been with the show since its premiere at Paper Mill Playhouse. How has your rapport evolved over the past two years?
I view her as someone that I will always be friends with and someone that I connect with on a much deeper level than just a fellow actor. We're both super goofy in a lot of ways, and we both are able to let go of the seriousness of being on Broadway and just play.
10. Donny Novitski was the first role you originated on Broadway. What has been your favorite part of developing a brand-new character?
This role is exclusively my thing forever, and that's really liberating. There are choices in the show and in the script and in the music that are mine — that came from my DNA and my creative process and are tailored to fit me. I feel like I put my stamp on theater history in a way. It's overwhelming and amazing and thrilling. I feel very full — like I ate a massive turkey dinner over the past two years and it's almost over.