Oct 26th, 2017
Fun Fact: The Band's Visit was adapted by the titled screenplay which was written by Eran Kolirin in 2007. It was his feature film debut for which he received worldwide acclaim. Now in its Broadway form, David Yazbek's adaptation has been described as an anti-musical and welcomed warmly, by most!
Target Audience: Anyone looking for a musical that sits outside the standard mold will adore this production. The narrative is intimate and filled with charming characters, the set design is stunning and the music is truly authentic.
Best Bit: John Cariani (from Something Rotten) plays a new father, unemployed and coming to terms with this transition and his responsibility. He sings "Itzik's Lullaby" and offers a poetic reminder how we have all relied on someone entirely in our lives and should never lose that trust or love.
Morning After Effect: Katrina Lenk's powerful voice looping over and over in my mind singing "Omar Sharif", her performance is sensational. Lenk presents a character hardened by life yet open and free with an invincible approach to pain, she is desperate for a soft touch and true love. Lenk and Tony Shalhoub (Tewfiq) are adorable in their interaction seeming like young teenagers fumbling awkwardly through their insecurities as they navigate their intense attraction.
Verdict: David Yazbeck (Music and Lyrics) and Itamar Moses (Book) have created a unique production with beautiful music and a narrative that will move you, and leave you hopeful that there is indeed a good world out there. David Cromer (Director) and Patrick McCollum (Choreographer) have breathed life into this production that resembles a gentle river flow, never forcing itself on you but gradually carving into the banks of your heart.
One of my favorite things to do is step into a cinema or theatre having no idea about the narrative that is about to unfold or the "word on the street". Such was the case with the new musical, The Band's Visit. As I walked into the beautiful Ethel Barrymore Theatre I surmised that a band would be visiting someplace... Of course, I knew that the renowned Tony Shalhoub was a leading man in this production (Tewfiq) and soon discovered he was to play the band leader of the Egyptian Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra.
We open on an entirely beige set and see there is little to nothing going on in this desert town, reiterated by the opening song "Waiting", sung by the Israeli residents of Bet Hatikva. The characters are on a revolving stage and in the background, we see an old man dragging a trash can, at one point we see two Israeli officers with guns, then a woman coming home to her child, a man waiting by the pay phone, and a caf opening. There is no sense of urgency and a sardonic air lingers. I'm immediately drawn in and intrigued by the staging, the authentic music and these interesting people in such a bland setting. They seem to exist somewhere between happiness and gloom.
Scott Pask's set design is an immediate extension of this story, acting as another character if you will with the constant looming 'nothing' that surrounds these people. He has an incredible ability to transform what appears to be a bare stage to instead feel alive with tremendous detail and effortless transformations. He also uses creative lighting (Tyler Micoleau) and projections (Maya Ciarrocchi) to transform his set and it works excellently.
Tewfiq and his band from Egypt find themselves lost in Bet Hatikva, dressed in their sky-blue uniforms which directly contrasts this desert land. We anticipate a frenzied welcome from the locals who might joyfully invite this surprise into their dull days and yet, no-one seems particular fussed. Director David Cromer has reflected this slow-paced and somewhat mischievous tone into his staging making The Band's Visit smooth, allowing time for each transition as we build to his crescendo.
Each character is unique and struggles to navigate their cultural differences, there is a charming simplicity to their lives as they discover each other in this setting through broken English. Nothing about this production feels forced or exaggerated which is rare in narrative today, especially in the musical medium where it is often expected. Just as song might sweep you away into an unexpected mood so too does Tewfiq's band as their music infiltrates into the lives of these people and the audience.
Perhaps, the music is the true star of this production with the talented band playing live on stage throughout. These Arabic songs have an ancient power that instantly latches onto your heart and at the same time somehow feels familiar. If something as simple as music can break the boundaries of cultural differences then The Band's Visit aims to turn the volume up and send a message loud and clear. I highly recommend seeing this production, the imagery and music will seep deep into your soul.
View our show pages for more information about The Band's Visit, Ethel Barrymore Theater.
Winner of 10 Tony Awards
Ethel Barrymore Theater: Open Run
A beautifully etched musical, that explores Israeli and Arab relations through a very human story, the critically aclaimed The Band's Visit follows the fortunes of an Egyptian police band who are left...more info
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