The Band's Visit

‘THE BAND’S VISIT’: Katrina Lenk & Tony Shalhoub. Photo: Matthew Murphy

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THE BAND’S VISIT
Music & lyrics by David Yazbek
Book by Itamar Moses
Based on the screenplay by Eran Kolirin
Directed by David Cromer
Ethel Barrymore Theatre
243 West 47th Street
(212-239-6200), www.TheBandsVisitMusical.com



By David NouNou

Music is a constant source of inspiration that brings people together and is a true healer. If properly done, it can create magic and bring sworn biblical enemies together, if only for a night. So it is with David Yazbek’s The Band’s Visit. Middle Eastern music (Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese) is among the most uplifting and joyous music in the world, and Mr. Yazbek has implemented the use of Middle Eastern instruments to create a score that is original and mesmerizing, a sound that Broadway has seldom heard. My only regret is he didn’t infuse it with a klezmer/Israeli sound that would have blown the roof off the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.

Based on the 2007 Israeli indie film of the same name, it is set in 1996 when eight Egyptian musicians who comprise the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra have been booked by an Arab cultural center in Petah Tikva Israel, but through a language miscommunication end up in Bet Hatikva. It is a barren wasteland of a town in the Negev Desert. There are no hotels, restaurants or anything; the people there just survive. On this particular day and night, these two factions are brought together through their loneliness and desolation. They share their lives, love of music, food and tales.

This is basically the story of The Band’s Visit; however, it is the haunting score that adds humanity to this gentle story of misplaced people. Songs like “The Beat of Your Heart,” “Omar Sharif” both amusing and intoxicating, “Something Different” and “Answer Me” leave you wanting more, and of course “The Concert” at the end by the musicians and those wonderful sounds and instruments have you floating out of the theatre in delight.

The two people at the center of the story are Dina (Katrina Lenk), owner of a desolate restaurant and Tewfiq (Tony Shalhoub), the band’s orchestra leader. Ms. Lenk, who was in Indecent earlier this year is sensational and touching. Mr. Shalhoub, who was in Arthur Miller’s The Price also earlier this year, adds another brilliant character to his repertoire. Every time you think you have seen all the faces of Mr. Shalhoub, he manages to come up with yet another one, and this one is sheer joy. The scenes between him and Ms. Lenk discussing their lives and shortcomings are sheer perfection.  Everything and everyone in the show circles their orbit.

David Cromer keeps the proceedings moving at a beautifully nuanced pace. One thing I found interesting before the curtain went up was overhearing different people wondering if this show was going to be as uplifting as Come From Away or anything like it. Let me emphatically state they are nothing alike; they are two different shows but both touch on people’s humanity and need to connect to each other. A message that is so desperately needed in these turbulent times.

 

Edited by Scott Harrah
Published November 17, 2017
Reviewed at November 16, 2017 press performance.

 

The Band's Visit

‘THE BAND’S VISIT’: The company. Photo: Matthew Murphy

‘THE BAND’S VISIT’: Tony Shalhoub & Katrina Lenk. Photo: Matthew Murphy

The Band's Visit

‘THE BAND’S VISIT’: The company. Photo: Matthew Murphy

Band's Visit

‘THE BAND’S VISIT’: (left to right) Rachel Prather, Etai Benson & Ari’el Stachel. Photo: Matthew Murphy

The Band's Visit

‘THE BAND’S VISIT’: (left to right) Kristen Sieh, John Cariani, Alok Tewani, Andrew Polk & George Abud. Photo: Matthew Murphy

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