The Donny Nova Band Featuring Julia Trojan

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The Donny Nova Band Featuring Julia Trojan

Birdland, NYC, November 27, 2017

Reviewed by Chris Struck for Cabaret Scenes

Corey Cott & Laura Osnes
Photo: Kevin Alvey

Corey Cott (as Donny Nova) has assembled a classy and strong personality jazz band that also happened to play a fictional one in the recent Broadway show, Bandstand, about WWII veterans finding life again through music. That production, which closed in October, won a Tony Award for best choreography and was nominated for best orchestrations. However, Cott, Laura Osnes (as Julia Trojan) and the show’s adoring fans (who filled Birdland to the brink) likely believe the cast could have taken home the latter, too. Jim Caruso hosted the night, but turned over most of the duties to Cott, leaving the stage after sharing that this night marked Birdland’s 700th performance. Cott took it from there, stealing the spotlight in his cool blue suit. That is, until Osnes appeared in red silk that took advantage of the Christmas-time feel, with sashes tapered to her slim figure in the shape of a bow.

Cott and Osnes and their dynamic voices headlined a jazz and swing set that featured the remarkable skills of a variety of talented musicians. Each of the performers took a turn “showing off” said skills in a classic jazz feel by performing solos. Most impressive was James Nathan Hopkins, who hopped onto the piano for a ditty in between playing the saxophone with the ease of a windup toy. Joey Pero nailed the trumpet, Brandon J. Ellis was solid on the double bass, Geoff Packard made the trombone look like the most fun instrument to play, and Joe Carroll held down the beat with strong licks on the drums. Matt Perri did the honors of directing, while also playing the piano, with passion, for most of the session. Cott, who did a lot of the singing, also reprised his role as pianist in the show, even admitting that Perri’s teaching was important to him. Another great moment was when Pero brought out the best in them with his own composition, “Firefly,” which had a longing tone for distant youth and its hopefulness. Rob Taylor even got in on that fun on the violin.

On top of that, the cast shared some of their favorite songs that were cut from Bandstand prior to opening. These were “Worth It” and “Give Me a Reason” which, like all the songs in the show, were written by the proficient duo of Rob Taylor and Richard Oberacker. The lyrics allowed one to experience a touch of nostalgia for an old world, while remaining topical to the ever-modern quests for purpose and love. One of my favorite lines from these was in “Give Me a Reason” when Cott crooned to Osnes, “I’ll do it…Say it’s time to go and I will.” Osnes had great lines of her own about being a war widow that still resonate, such as, “Every sacrifice, I’d make it twice.” Getting an opportunity to hear her sing is indeed worth it.

Most impressive was easily the fact that these performers have spent the better part of the year together, and they could still laugh and joke together. And that really characterized the evening: great musicians enjoying each other’s company and showcasing their remarkable talents to an awed crowd. I’m sure we’re all wondering if they’ll be back for another round.

Chris Struck

Chris Struck's debut novel, Kennig and Gold, is due to be officially published in June 2019. He's written reviews for Cabaret Scenes since August of 2017. For more information about the writer, see