The Band’s Visit
Music and lyrics by David Yazbek
Book by Itamar Moses
Ethel Barrymore Theatre, NYC, July 6, 2018
Once, not long ago, a group of musicians came to Israel from Egypt.
You probably didn’t hear about it. It wasn’t very important.
Thus begins The Band’s Visit. This is projected across the stage and basically does a good job of summarizing the plot. Except, perhaps, for the part about it being unimportant.
Bias warning again: I love the source material – a quiet Israeli movie from about 2007. I love this show even more. Here’s a really important thing that I think this show proved for me tonight and gives me a chance to bash Mean Girls again. TBV just won the Tony for best new musical. The competition was Mean Girls, Frozen and SpongeBob Squarepants. Yeah. Okay – was there an element of Tony voters that just couldn’t bear to vote for those ridiculous brashly commercial shows – maybe.
What I find interesting though, especially in light of the Mean Girls experience, is that all four of these shows use a movie as their source material.
The Band’s Visit elevates it’s source material and makes a new piece of art. It has a reason to exist. They changed very little from the film, but they used stagecraft to further develop the themes and particularly the tone of the piece.
“I like Chet Baker.”
I probably shouldn’t even try to write about it now….The show takes place over one night in the mistaken, misbegotten town of Bet Hatikva – the Egyptian band was meant to go to Peta Tikva. With no bus until morning the band must wait overnight. Taken in by the locals and enjoying their hospitality. Everyone in the show is, as the opening number suggests, waiting. Waiting – for something to happen, for things to get better, for a bus, and, probably most importantly, waiting for a phone call.
Most of the songs are also … quiet, in a sense. They are almost all solos, with the exception of a full ensemble climax for just a part of ‘Answer Me’. Now that I think about it, quiet isn’t fair because the songs are full of life and energy, but there’s no belting a la Mean Girls. Stylistically, the shows runs through jazz, Arabic music, klezmer and traditional musical theater styles. The cast album is amazing. I’m not going to do this well. The show is phenomenal. The movie was great. It earned its Tony. I want to see it again and again. We had a twenty minute talkback with some of the cast afterwards….here’s a sneaky pic. Here’s some pictures and videos.
Dina: You know what I think?
There’s two kinds of waiting
There’s the kind where you’re expecting something new, or even strange
But this kind of waiting, you keep looking off out into the distance
Even though you know the view is never going to change
For the Tonys, Katrina Lenk performed the song ‘Omar Sharif’. Amazing. Watch it hereHere’s a clip of Welcome to NowhereHere’s a clip of Answer Me. It’s a little weird, performing outside at the Today show. . Wow.
Only you, when the sun and moon and stars are gone what’s left is only you.
Will you answer me?