Screen to Stage - The Journey of Broadway's THE BAND'S VISIT
One of the most anticipated musicals of the 2017 Fall Season is THE BAND'S VISIT, now open at Broadway's Ethel Barrymore Theatre following a highly successful, award-winning run off-Broadway. The show is based on a 2007 Israeli film which puts a creative spin on the popular 'fish-out-of-water' genre.
Today BWW takes a look back at the journey of this captivating tale, from screen to stage!
2007 ISRAELI FILM
The Israeli film THE BAND'S VISIT was released in May 2007 by Sony Classics. Written and directed by Eran Kolirin and featuring music by Habib Shadah, the story centered on The Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra, consisting of eight men, who were booked to perform in an Arab Cultural Center in Israel. Through a miscommunication however, the band takes a bus to Beit Hatikva, a fictional town in the middle of the Negev Desert. There is no transportation out of the city that day, and there are no hotels for them to spend the night in. The band members dine at a small restaurant where the owner, Dina invites them to stay the night at her apartment, at her friends' apartment, and in the restaurant. The night winds up challenging the musicians in multiple ways. Sasson Gabai and Saleh Bakri led the cast as two members of the band, while Ronit Elkabetz played restaurant owner Dina.Following a well-received critical reception, Israel chose the film as their original Foreign Language Film submission for the 80th Academy Awards. Unfortunately, the movie was rejected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences because it contained over 50% English dialogue, albeit mostly broken English. Ultimately, Israel submitted the film "Beaufort," which became one of five final nominees in the category. Despite THE BAND'S VISIT missed opportunity to compete for an Oscar, the film went on to win eight Israeli Ophir Prizes awarded by the Israeli Film Academy. The film also competed in the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Jury Coup de Coeur, the Montreal Film Festival, where it won a Feature Film Award, the Zurich Film Festival, where it picked up a Golden Eye and New Talent Award and the Toronto Film Festival.
Watch the film's official trailer below:
OFF-BROADWAY STAGE ADAPTATION
In November of 2016, an adapted stage musical version of the film, also titled THE BAND'S VISIT, opened at the Off-Broadway Linda Gross Theater. Produced by the Atlantic Theatre Company, the musical featured a book by Itamar Moses (THE FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE) with music and lyrics by David Yazbek (DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDREL) and was based on the screenplay by Eran Kolirin. Directed by David Cromer, with choreography by Patrick McCollum, the cast included Tony Shalhoub, John Cariani and Katrina Lenk.The musical won the 2017 Drama Critics' Circle Awards for Best Musical, the 2017 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding New Musical, and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical.
Below, listen to Katrina Lenk singing David Yazbek's 'Omar Sharif' accompanied by full orchestra:
At a 2016 appearance at 54 Below, composer David Yazbek discusses his new show and explains the influence that Egyptian artist Umm Kulthum had on him as a child:
Following much critical acclaim, it was announced that THE BAND'S VISIT would transfer to Broadway's Ethel Barrymore Theatre, with previews beginning on October 7, 2017 and an official opening on November 9.
The off-Broadway leads, Tony Shalhoub (ACT ONE) and Katrina Lenk (INDECENT) and John Cariani (SOMETHING ROTTEN!) reprise their roles. The company also includes Ari'el Stachel (WE LIVE IN CAIRO), George Abud (THE VISIT), Andrew Polk (BURNING), Bill Army (ACT ONE), Rachel Prather (ONCE), Jonathan Raviv (MARTYRS STREET), Sharone Sayegh (MAMMA MIA!), Kristen Sieh (THE FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE) and Alok Tewari (AWAKE AND SING!). Cromer will direct alongside the creative team of Andrea Grody (music director), Patrick McCollum (choreography), Scott Pask (set), Maya Ciarrocchi (projections), Tyler Micoleau (lighting), Sarah Laux (costumes), Kai Harada (sound), and Jamshied Sharifi (orchestrations).
In an interview with The New York Times, David Cromer shared that he didn't anticipate major changes to the show in the grander Broadway venue. "We have wing space suddenly, so there are more interesting ways for things to arrive onstage than at the Atlantic," said the director. "It's going to change the flow. Our first mandate is to not mess things up!"
The cast recently gave BWW a sneak preview of the new musical at the The Strand's Rare Book Room: