In Theaters Only on December 1, 2020
Directed by: Robert Adetuyi (Stomp The Yard, Bring It On: Worldwide #Cheersmack)
1919. Stefan and his father Mike fled Ukraine for the New World, where they struggle to earn enough to reunite the family. Stefan is instantly smitten with the Jewish suffragette neighbour, Rebecca – but Rebecca’s brother Moishe and Mike oppose the would-be Romeo and Juliet. Returned soldiers, angry at the lack of jobs after the war, violently threaten the city’s immigrants, including Emma, the refugee from racist violence in Oklahoma. When a movement develops for workers to leave their jobs in protest, AJ Anderson, a wealthy lawyer, pits all against each other in a dramatic and inspirational final stand.
The potential in this story is obvious. Catchy numbers and an intriguing premise based on a true story. Unfortunately, it needs to stage to fully bloom. As someone who graduated from a musical theatre conservatory in Manhattan, I recognize the over-the-top gesture and intonation that is needed to reach the back row. But because the audience is experiencing it from a screen, it comes off as forced at times. The energy is lost in translation and it feels uneven. Theater broadcasting LIVE in a movie theater is different. Here, it’s actually the camera that ruins that genuine connection. Performances are outstanding so they deserve that give and take electric feeling. It also lacks in one major area where most musicals thrive; choreography. With a large and varied immigrant ensemble, this was a lost opportunity leading to momentary lulls in pacing. I kept hoping something was coming, some big number highlighting the different facets of people coming together. The moments definitely presented themselves over and over and not a single number. I think it could have pushed STAND! across the finish line.
The issues in the stage play turned screenplay is still incredibly relevant. This is the most successful aspect. Taking pages from Ragtime, Newsies, Parade, and Hamilton, stories of immigrants, race, religious persecution, classism, and the right to strike are all still ripe for vibrant storytelling in 2020. STAND! shines brightest when it sings. By far the best numbers belong to Lisa Bell. Get this girl on Broadway the minute it’s officially back. The Romeo and Juliet aspect between Rebecca and Stefan is charming enough but not as powerful as Emma or Mike Sokolowski’s emotional journey, whom the original stageplay STRIKE! is based upon. STAND! needs an Off-Broadway run and a workshop. But be the first movie theater audience to get chills while Lisa Bell belts out the theme in the final moments of the film, for sure. It’s worth the ticket price.
Music, Lyrics and Score: Danny Schur (Made In Winnipeg: The Terry Sawchuk Origin Story)
Featuring Lisa Bell’s show-stopping performance of the protest song Stand!
Marshall Williams (“Glee”, “How to Build a Better Boy”)
Laura Wiggins (“Shameless”, 20th Century Women)
Lisa Bell (No Time Like Christmas, “Canadian Idol”)
Gregg Henry (“Guardians of the Galaxy”, “Scandal”)
Erik Athavale (Fractured, Breakthrough)
Paul Essiembre (“Covert Affairs”, “Silver Surfer”)
Hayley Sales (Deadpool 2, “The Good Doctor”)
Tickets and a list of participating theater locations will be available at www.FathomEvents.com.
RT: 110 Minutes