Review Roundup: THE BAND'S VISIT National Tour Takes the Stage; What Did the Critics Think?

The tour returned to the stage at the Durham Performing Arts Center in Durham, NC.

By: Oct. 26, 2021
The Band's Visit

The North American tour of the 10-time Tony Award-winning Best Musical THE BAND'S VISIT, featuring music and lyrics by Tony and Drama Desk Award®-winner David Yazbek, has hit the road! The tour returned to the stage at the Durham Performing Arts Center in Durham, NC.

Award-winning Israeli film actor Sasson Gabay reprises the role of Tewfiq, the role he created in the 2007 film of THE BAND'S VISIT and has played on Broadway and in more than 17 cities on the First National Tour. Joining him to lead the company is the critically acclaimed actress Janet Dacal (Prince of Broadway, Wonderland, In The Heights) in the role of Dina.

Let's see what the critics are saying...

Durham Performing Arts Center - Durham, NC

Nicole Ackman, BroadwayWorld: Gabay is an accomplished Israeli actor who also played the role of Tewfiq in the film that the musical is based on. It's very exciting to get to see him bring the role to life again onstage. Dacal brings a sultry and confident air to Dina that is perfect for her character. Another standout of the cast is Joshua Grosso as the Telephone Guy, who guards the telephone waiting for his faraway girlfriend to call and has a beautiful voice in his song, "Answer Me."

Garrett Southerland, Talkin' Broadway: Gabay created the role of Tewfiq in the original film, and he played the role on Broadway after Tony Shalhoub (who originated the role there) left. Bookwriter Itamar Moses limits our understanding of Tewfiq until near the end of the show, and by then the audience has barely a chance to empathize with him. This is the case with many of the characters in fact-all but cafe-owner Dina (portrayed sternly by Janet Dacal), who clearly is the focus of development. The musical runs about 80 minutes without an intermission, and it feels as though there was room to develop the other characters more. Ms. Dacal's performance is credible though lacking some passionate resonance. All of that said, The Band's Visit pushes back against common American stereotypes of Middle Easterners with authentic and positive representation.

Civic Center Of Greater Des Moines - Des Moines, IA

DC Felton, BroadwayWorld:

The cast of "The Band's Visit" is mesmerizing. They drew the audience in from the top of the show, no matter what size of a role their character had in the show. Leading the show in the role of Sasson Gabay as Tewfiq, the role he originated in the movie "The Band's Visit" and then later joined the Broadway cast as a replacement for Tewfiq. I appreciated the nuances he brought to the character, which influenced how he interacted with each cast member. As he revealed more about his character to the audience, what drove his relationships with each actor onstage became very clear.

Tennessee Performing Arts Center - Nashville, TN

Jeffrey Ellis, BroadwayWorld: The musicians and their conductor, Tewfiq (Sasson Gabay warmly recreates onstage the role he first played in the film version that inspired the musical) arrive in the village of Bet Hatikva as the result of miscommunication when Haled's (the band's trumpet player brought to vivid life by Joe Joseph) Egyptian accent doesn't sound quite like "Petah Tikva," their destination. With no other bus available until the following morning, the musicians find refuge with townspeople eager for something different to happen in their lives. The resulting confluence of cultures and personalities might, at first blush, seem rather predictable and somewhat mundane, but as the disparate figures get to know one another, something far more consequential transpires and the Egyptians find common ground and friendship with their Israeli hosts, buffeted by a shared sense of loneliness and melancholy that somehow proves hopeful and redemptive.

Amy Stumpfl, Nashville Scene: Still, there are some really gorgeous performances here, and it's exciting to see Sasson Gabay reprising the role of Tewfiq (the part he originated in the original film and later took on as a replacement on Broadway). Janet Dacal also puts her own stamp on the pivotal role of Dina, drawing us in with numbers like "Omar Sharif" and "Something Different." But some of the evening's most memorable bits come from the supporting cast - including Joe Joseph, who delivers a dreamy rendition of "Haled's Song About Love," and Clay Singer, who infuses "Itzik's Lullaby" with aching honesty. "The Beat of Your Heart" provides yet another highlight, featuring the wonderful David Studwell as Avrum, an Israeli widower who bonds with his Egyptian guest over memories of music and youthful romance.

Shea's Performing Arts Center - Buffalo, NY

Michael Rabice, BroadwayWorld: Janet Dacal is mesmerizing as Dina. Physically beautiful, with a deadpan dry delivery, Dacal inhabits this fascinating character with elegance. Given Dina's background as a dance, Dacal's every movement is choreographed with subtlety. She houses the orchestra leader Tewfiq and trumpeter Haled for the night and becomes captivated by Tewfiq, played brilliantly by Sasson Gabay. Mr. Gabay has the distinction of playing the same role in the movie version, upon which the musical is based. He is a self confident man who hides his emotions and leads with authority.

Melinda Miller, Buffalo News: "The Band's Visit" doesn't have that "big" moment. This story exists in a place where it's the small moments that count. On this night in a small town in Israel, humanity breaks out between Arabs and Jews. And, in the morning, the bus to Petah Tikva arrives.

Peter Hall, Buffalo Rising: The stage is very clever, using those rotating concentric circles that we've seen before in HAMILTON. For me it isn't a musical without a counterpoint duet and here we get the Israeli Itzik singing a lullaby with the Egyptian Camal singing in Arabic. Very cool. And I only feel I've gotten my money's worth at a musical when I get choked up. It always happens during Act II of CAROUSEL, it happens during "Paul's Story" in A CHORUS LINE, and now here, in a brief moment late at night in Dina's apartment, it happens again.

Ann Marie Cusella, Welcome 716: The Middle Eastern music is one of the stars of the show. It is spectacular. From the rousing Overture at the start and Concert at the end, we are treated to such beautiful music that our spirits take wing and we are transported to a place that is sweet and spicy, filled with love and longing. Chet Baker shows up, too, as does George Gershwin. Hmmm.

Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts - Hartford, CT

Christopher Arnott, The Hartford Courant: This is a special show, one that is not only calm and contemplative but laid back and aggressively humble. David Yazbek creates some lovely emotional songs about loss, delayed dreams and, yes, endless waiting. But he also is happy to bring other composer's melodies onto his turf. There's an amusing Israeli/Egyptian singalong to the Gershwins' "Summertime" from "Porgy & Bess." Boney M.'s over the top disco version of Bobby Hebb's soul/pop classic "Sunny" soundtracks a roller disco scene.

Nancy Sasso Janis, Patch: Janet Dacal (who was part of the original Broadway cast of "In the Heights" and "Prince of Broadway") is wonderful in the leading role of Dina, a restaurant owner in this small Israeli town. Israeli actor Sasson Gabay is very strong in the role of the band leader Tewfiq, the role he played in the film version of "The Band's Visit." Joe Joseph, who appeared on Broadway in "The Band's Visit," is charming and handsome in the role of band member Haled and Clay Singer, who has appeared onstage at the Westport Country Playhouse, plays the role of the young father Itzik.

Mark G. Auerbach, The Westfield News: David Cromer's staging brings out the many wonderful nuances of "The Band's Visit," and the sets, costumes, lighting and sound are as polished as one might have experienced seeing the show on Broadway. Janet Dacal (who was fantastic in Goodspeed's "Bye Bye Birdie") and Sasson Gabay, an Israeli actor who starred in the original film, are terrific.

Bonnie Goldberg, The Middletown Press: One wrong turn, one misunderstood direction, the lack of a map or GPS and one can find oneself stuck in the middle of nowhere. That is the fate of a band of musicians traveling from Egypt on their way to perform a concert in Petah Tikvah in Israel. Through mistakes and poor language skills, they end up in the forsaken town of Bet Hatikva, unexpected and uninvited.

Jarice Hanson, In The Spotlight: "The Band's Visit" is what we need after the prolonged pandemic has beaten so many of us down. It is simple, honest, and transformative. On opening night, the sound quality in the auditorium at the Bushnell (often problematic) made it difficult to understand every word spoken by the heavily accented actors, but the message was clear, and "The Band's Visit" is an encouraging reminder that simplicity can be a good thing, and finding a way to communicate with others, lifts our hearts.

Dolby Theatre - Hollywood, CA

Charles McNulty, The Los Angeles Times: At a time when everyone seems to be so angry, conflicts appear to be irresolvable and communion no longer within reach, "The Band's Visit" is like balm for a tired spirit. The musical touched me deeply when I saw it on Broadway in 2017, but after such a long period away from the theater, I found the show even more profoundly affecting.

Cary Ginell, BroadwayWorld: If the very human story depicted in The Band's Visit can be seen as a painting, the on-stage orchestra serves as the palette of colors with which it is painted. The music played by the members of the on-stage seven-piece band, which includes conventional orchestral instruments like clarinet, cello, and violin, combined with Arabic instruments like the twelve-string oud, and the crisp percussion of the bongo-like darbouka, float in and out of every scene, either appearing on the periphery to accent dialog or featured in between-scene interludes. Even the band's powder-blue uniforms, which one villager likens to the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper" outfits, brighten up the drab desert hamlet.

Deborah Howell, The Wave: The cast is led by Sasson Gabay as the band's conductor, Tewfiq, reprising the role he played in the 2007 movie "The Band's Visit" and the role he inherited from Tony Shaloub on Broadway. He's a delight as he riffs with L.A.'s own Janet Dacal (Dina) the café owner who against all odds invites the band to stay for dinner and then to stay the night at the homes of various friends.

Imaan Jalali, LA Excites: Janet Dacal is mesmerizing as Dina, who, despite being frazzled by the travails and regrets in her life, sees a reawakening upon finding serendipitous common ground between herself and Gabay's Tewfiq. This is never more evident than during "Omar Sharif" and "Something Different," thanks to Dacal's breathtaking voice which soars with joyful expectation out of the dreariness that envelops her. More importantly, the bonding of Dina and Tewfiq highlights a lovely vulnerability, humanity, and co-existence that should always, but sadly doesn't, epitomize relationships in the strife-ridden Middle East.

Victor Riobo, Indulge Magazine: The Band's Visit has none of the splashy musical and dance numbers that seem to define its genre, but neither does it need them; the sublime story, message, and heart are far more captivating than the typical bells and whistles of most musicals. Scenic Design by Scott Pask is appropriately minimal and effective, never distracting from the performances. The cast is in top form, and even fans of the movie will have a tough time picking which version they love more. Joe Joseph (Loveless Texas, Baghdaddy) as Haled, the Chet Baker crooning band member brings comedy and cassanova swagger, seducing us with one of the evening's most exquisite numbers - the jazzy, Haled's Song About Love.

Keller Auditorium - Portland, OR

Krista Garver, BroadwayWorld: The ensemble, led by Janet Dacal as Dina and Loren Lester (the standby for Tewfiq who went on the night I went), is excellent. There's a lot of white space in the show - silent moments where communication happens via glances and facial expressions. I can see it being tempting to clobber these moments - we're not so used to silence, especially in a space as big as the Keller. But the cast resists that temptation, giving the words room to breathe and also heightening the impact when the music and emotions soar.

Golden Gate Theatre - San Francisco, CA

Lily Janiak, Datebook: The show, directed by David Cromer, believes in the force of a lonesome melody - how a humble air on the clarinet can lull a squalling infant and soften its squabbling parents, how a remembered strain can summon a lost partner and suggest a yearning, however inchoate, for something new. It believes that no matter how small we seem, arias burn inside us.

Steve Murray, BroadwayWorld: The show needs to be in a more intimate theatre setting a some of the gentle subtleties can be lost in a cavernous space. The musicianship is superb and a joy for the ear. Tony Award-winner Scott Pask's set designs convey the drabness of the desert town and Tony Award-winner Tyler Micoleau (Lighting Design) and Tony Award-winner Kai Harada (Sound Design) add to the atmosphere and musical setting.

Karen D'Souza, Mercury News: While the leads in this touring production may not have the same explosive chemistry that Tony Shaloub and Katrina Lenk had on Broadway, the romance of the musical retains its incandescent glow. Dacal enchants in the "Omar Sharif" number and Gabay, reprising the role he played in the 2007 movie, touches your heart with his keenly developed sense of honor.

ASU Gammage - Tempe, AZ

Herbert Paine, BroadwayWorld: If you've seen the film, you may recall feeling that some of the characters were drawn a little too broadly, yet here, on stage, without any significant changes, they come across as perfectly natural. So, too, does the humor. Reactions a character makes to something spoken are often expressed with a slow, silent burn. For some used to a broader, more direct, play-to-the-back-of-the-house style of comedy, patience is required, but it's this very tender, leisurely paced, understated style not usually experienced in a live performance, that makes THE BAND'S VISIT such a genuine delight.

Civic Theatre - San Diego, CA

E.H. Reiter, BroadwayWorld: Dacal's Dina is lonely, direct, and dreams of leaving the town, even though she knows she never will. She is as changeable as the wind, one minute being warm and welcoming to being cold and confrontational. Gabay's Tewfiq is formal, stiff with both the responsibility as leader of this band and as someone who is haunted by the ghosts of his past.

Pam Kragen, The San Diego Union-Tribune: Sasson Gabay - the same actor who played the orchestra's widowed conductor, Tewfiq, in the film - reprises his role on tour. Now 74, Gabay is exactly the same as the reserved and wounded but lovable character, though he sings less in the musical than he did in the film. Janet Dacal stars as Dina, the frank, uninhibited and bitter Bet Hativkah café owner who falls ever-so-slightly for Tewfiq. Dacal has a gorgeous singing voice and a commanding stage presence.

Pat Launer, Times of San Diego: At the center of the (minimal) action is the orchestra conductor, the widowed Tewfiq (a wonderfully still, controlled Sasson Gabay, who originated the role in the film, winning the Best European Actor Award); and his meeting and coming-together with the sensual, aching but cynical divorcée, Dina (Janet Dacal, a Cuban-American whose Israeli accent often sounds less than credible, though her singing is superb).

Paramount Theatre - Seattle, WA

Jay Irwin, BroadwayWorld: The show is certainly not your typical, rollicking musical. You may not leave the theater dancing or humming your favorite tune (although you may since I find many of the tunes incredibly infectious). But thanks to the gorgeous music of David Yazbek and soul invading book from Itamar Moses as well as the deliberately paced direction of David Cromer, you will leave with a renewed faith in the humanity across all cultures, something we desperately need to remember these days. But it is a slow pace, with many pauses due to the broken English dialog, so allow yourself to sit back and let the jasmine wind sweep over you.

Eccles Theatre - Salt Lake City, UT

Tyler Hinton, BroadwayWorld: The ensemble cast, compellingly directed by David Cromer, is world-class with highly nuanced, screen-worthy performances. These include Janet Dacal as Dina, who played memorable roles in the original Broadway casts of IN THE HEIGHTS (Carla) and WONDERLAND (Alice), and Sasson Gabay as Tewfiq, who interestingly originated the same role in the film.

Ryan Painter, KUTV: Janet Dacal's performance as Dina, the café owner, is a scene stealer. And yes, she's written that way, but that makes Dacal's performance more impressive. The spotlight is on her and she knows exactly what to do with it. It's lovely to have the opportunity to see Sasson Gabay as Tewfiq, he played the character in the original film and the touring production in 2019. They're the heart of the story and there's something tender and tragic to be found in their meeting.

Segerstrom Center for the Arts - Costa Mesa, CA

Michael Quintos, BroadwayWorld: Deceitfully charming despite feeling mostly like a musical where no real obstacles or evils take place or where "nothing" really happens, A LOT does happen in THE BAND'S VISIT, if you peer between the lines and get lost in its hypnotic machinations. There is a quiet beauty at work here, from the simple but lovely musical interludes that transition from scenes and locales to the aching vocal delivery of its characters. The musical posits that even the most seemingly insignificant events in our lives make a lasting effect in our way of thinking or behaving.

Christopher Smith, Orange County Register: A fear I had coming into this evening was how well the jewel that is "The Band's Visit" might shine in a bigger venue like Segerstrom Hall. But at early points in the story's telling - with less music and pauses in the pacing of dialogue to establish the work's muted themes of longing and hope - I was relieved that the audience didn't resort to coughing and throat-clearing to break up the silence, always a tell-tale sign of a disengaged crowd.

Cori Graham, SoCal Thrills: The combination of a rotating stage and musical transitions played by on-stage band members made for a dynamic staging and captivating imagery. My eyes were drawn all over the stage despite the simple (yet effective) set pieces and minimal cast. I was blessed to see Sasson Gabay reprise his role as Tewfiq from his award-winning performance in the 2007 film The Band's Visit. Janet Dacal is an absolute treasure as Dina; with insane comedic timing and warm vocals, she was truly a standout that led me to YouTube when I got home just to hear her sing "Omar Sharif" again.

Lied Center - Lincoln, NE

Analisa Swerczek, BroadwayWorld: Janet Dacal gives a memorable and admirable performance as Dina, a role originated by Tony Award winner Katrina Lenk. While Dacal's vocals are strong, there was a stark contrast between the full resonance of her speaking voice and her higher mask-forward vocals when singing that was a bit jarring at times. Her Dina was grounded and made the audience feel as though she served as the backbone of the town. Her rendition of Omar Sharif was simply stunning, and the dry humor she presented through her line delivery was wonderfully charming.

Orpheum Theatre - Memphis, TN

AniKatrina Fageol, BroadwayWorld: Janet Dacal's Dina steals the spotlight as soon as she enters the scene. She is drawn to the conductor of the orchestra, Tewfiq, played by Sasson Gabay. Gabay actually portrayed the same character in the film as well as the 2019 touring production. In one of my favorite songs of the show "Itgara'a", Dina takes Tewfiq to a "park" which is just a bench in the middle of Bet Hatikva. However, Dina encourages Tewfiq to use his imagination and describes the park as she sees it. Tewfiq reveals a tragic past and begins to sing. The song is in Arabic so the audience does not necessarily understand the lyrics but it is a touching moment of how music can bring people to laughter and to tears.

Straz Center - Tampa, FL

Drew Eberhard, BroadwayWorld: From top to bottom this cast exquisitely delivers this human-conditioned driven tale with sheer grace and elegance. As Dina, Janet Dacal is alluring, beguiling, and charismatic. You can sense that she is a woman of the world and yet in her heart all she knows is Bet Hatikva. Her delivery during "Omar Sharif," and "Something Different," is exceptional. Her vocals stand out and make you take notice with every graceful note. You feel something stir in your heart every time Janet sings, and her Dina is perfection.

Rochester Broadway Theatre League - Rochester, NY

Colin Fleming-Stumpf, BroadwayWorld: While "The Band's Visit" boasts interesting characters and expected other trappings of an entertaining stage production, music is indeed the connective tissue that holds the entire story together. Everything from traditional Middle Eastern music to jazz to soothing clarinet concertos get their due, and all the music in this production is thrilling and top-notch. The musicians that occupy various spaces on stage and add flair and color throughout the story were one of my favorite aspects of the show, particularly after the curtain call when the band takes center stage for "The Concert."

Hanover Theatre - Worcester, MA

Kevin T. Baldwin, Telegram: The cast is sublime and all the performances solid, including several last-moment "swings" who hit the stage and performed flawlessly. Swings at the June 16 performance included Dana Saleh Omar as Julia, Hannah Shankman as Iris and Nick Sacks as Itzik.

Kennedy Center - Washington, DC

Pamela Roberts, BroadwayWorld: Janet Dacal as Dina powers the show with her gorgeous voice and high-energy performance. But Dacal also has touching, quieter moments like her memories of watching Omar Sharif movies on tv as a girl. Her scenes with band leader Twefiq, played by Sasson Gabay, are filled with light and humor as Dina encourages the shy and uptight conductor to loosen up and explore the small village with her. Gabay originated the role of Tewfiq in the Israeli film on which the musical was based. Gabay balances both gravitas and reserve in his portrayal of Tewfiq. Dina also plays host to Haled (Ali Louis Bourzgui), the smooth trumpeter who seeks to win acclaim with his Chet Baker renditions. Bourzgui brings an earnestness and ease to the role, keeping it sweet rather than slick.

Andre Hereford, Metro Weekly: David Comer's staging also beautifully fuses day-in-the-life storytelling with the naturally performative aspects of onstage musicians. Comer and choreographer Patrick McCollum dance, turn, and revolve the impassioned cast around Scott Pask's evocative sets with subtle, sometimes deadpan, precision.

Susan Brall, Maryland Theatre Guide: This is not a traditional musical with big production numbers with dozens of "gypsies" in bright costumes. The songs here are like poems sung to music. They tell their story, and then they are over-brief, wonderful interludes with just the right ingredients to fill up our senses. Like a seven-course dinner, it's on to the next, wonderful flavor.

Aronoff Center - Cincinnati, OH

Taylor Clemons, BroadwayWorld: At its core, the show is about human connection, and what we mean to one another. The characters of the musical come into each others lives by chance, and while the connection is brief, the show really shines a light on how even the smallest of interactions can bring joy or clarity into someone's life.

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Reviews: THE BANDS VISIT National Tour Takes the Stage Photo
Reviews: THE BAND'S VISIT National Tour Takes the Stage

The North American tour of the 10-time Tony Award-winning Best Musical THE BAND'S VISIT, featuring music and lyrics by Tony and Drama Desk Award®-winner David Yazbek, has hit the road!

Photos: First Look at Janet Dacal and Sasson Gabay & More in THE BANDS VISIT National  Photo
Photos: First Look at Janet Dacal and Sasson Gabay & More in THE BAND'S VISIT National Tour

The North American tour of the 10-time Tony Award-winning Best Musical THE BAND'S VISIT, featuring music and lyrics by Tony and Drama Desk Award®-winner David Yazbek, has hit the road, currently playing at Nashville's TPAC Andrew Jackson Hall. Upcoming stops include Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Worcester, Hartford, and Los Angeles.

Sasson Gabay and Janet Dacal to Lead THE BANDS VISIT Tour Photo
Sasson Gabay and Janet Dacal to Lead THE BAND'S VISIT Tour

The North American tour of the 10-time Tony Award-winning Best Musical THE BAND’S VISIT, featuring music and lyrics by Tony and Drama Desk Award®-winner David Yazbek, will resume its national tour on Tuesday, October 5, 2021 at the Durham Performing Arts Center and continue on to more than 25 cities through Summer 2022.



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