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Vegas musical ‘Bandstand,’ and its tough trumpeter, hits the Tonys

The back story of a “Bandstand” cast member itself could be prime fare for a Broadway show.

A kid toiling in Vegas, armed with his trusty trumpet but limited stage experience, lands a plumb role in a powerful World War II musical. He works and works to learn the steps and memorize the lines, is fitted for his 1940s duds and actually creates his role of a lifetime.

But the night of a party after the cast’s first rehearsal – at the home of multiple-Tony Award winner Tommy Tune, no less – the young horn player is slammed by an SUV while walking the sidewalks of Manhattan.

Joey Pero broke his right leg in four places on the night of Feb. 8. He has been sidelined from his Broadway show, the Las Vegas-conceived “Bandstand,” for four months. But Sunday night, the Vegas musician is performing on the Tony Awards along with the cast of the musical, written by Richard Oberacker who is also music directorof “Ka,” with composing partner and violinist Robert Taylor.

The nationwide telecast is 8 p.m. on CBS. “Bandstand,” a musical centering on a group of soldiers returning from combat and overcoming post-traumatic stress syndrome, is nominated for two Tonys: Andy Blankenbuehler, for Best Choreography (he has been honored for “Hamilton”) and Bill Elliott and Greg Anthony Rassen for Best Orchestrations).

An award would be terrific, the show has already won a tangible prize by reaching millions of people during the telecast in what amounts to Pero’s debut in the production.

“I have been part of this show, this journey, for two years, and I moved back to New York for this opportunity,” Pero, who fronted his own band and was a musician in “Jersey Boys” at Paris Las Vegas, said Saturday. “Then, this happens, and I’m like, ‘Jesus Christmas, what’s next?’ I’ve taken my own physical and emotional journey. Every day I am in physical therapy I have been wanting to be a part of the show, and I’m getting there.”

Pero is back onstage, finally in the role of serviceman Nick, on June 30. But he’s been cleared to appear in the Tony broadcast. “The fact that they want me on the Tonys is an honor. They wanted me to be a part of it.”

Oberacker says the number being performed is a highlight from the show, of course. But it is also a tribute to a cast that has beaten the odds.

“It’s called, ‘Nobody,’ and one of the lines is, ‘Who tells me no, and tells me I can’t make it? Nobody,’ ” Oberacker said Saturday. “That’s what ‘Bandstand’ is. We didn’t get Best Musical nomination, but we have been asked to show what we can do. We have real actors, real musicians onstage playing in right in front of you. That’s what we set out to do, and that is what we’ve done.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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