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Review: THE BAND'S VISIT at Des Moines Performing Arts

This Mesmerizing Productions Only Plays Through October 17.

The Band's Visit

When the national tour of "Anastasia" closed on March 1 at Des Moines Performing Arts, no one could have imagined it would be 19 months before another national tour of a Broadway show would hit the stage again at the Civic Center. 19 months. Who would have thought an intermission could last that long? On Tuesday, October 12, the stage was filled again with all the entrancing pieces that go into making a Broadway show when the national tour of "The Band's Visit, which plays through October 17, 2021, opened.

After this Covid induced intermission, it was amazing to be sitting in the Civic Center auditorium again. When attending, plan for a little extra time to follow the new Covid protocols. When you get to the Civic Center, they have event staff outside to show your vaccination card or negative covid test. They will then stamp your hand, and you can proceed inside, where they will scan your ticket. Make sure to download the Des Moines Performing Arts App, so you have the tickets with you in the palm of your hand.

If you aren't familiar with "The Band's Visit," the show takes place in 1996, when the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra arrives at a bus station in Tel Aviv. When they aren't greeted during their arrival, the group's leader Tewfig decides they will purchase bus tickets to where the city where they are supposed to perform. Due to a misunderstanding when buying tickets, instead of the band going to Petah Tikvah, the band gets on the bus to Bet Hatikvah. When they arrive, they head to a café to ask for directions to the center they are supposed to perform in. The owner, Dina, quickly realizes they are in the wrong city. She offers them a meal and a place to stay for the evening. What's in store for the band while they are in Bet Hatikva? And do they ever make it to Petah Tikvah? To find out, you'll have to see the show.

From the moment the show started, I was drawn in for an hour and a half of entertainment for the evening. This begins with the brilliant Tony-nominated set design from three-time Tony Award winner Scott Pask. The set has his signature prosceniums he builds into many of his sets. What drew me in was how it seemed to be a minimalistic set with a few walls, but as the show started, the audience got to see how intricate the set was. As the second scene started, it became clear as the set began rotating and items coming around on the turntable built into the stage, which I didn't see from my seat. The set was beautifully lit by Tony Award-winning lighting design of Tyler Micoleau that takes the audience from outside in the middle of nowhere, inside a bar, and other places that would ruin the show's plot.

The Tony-winning orchestrations by Jamsheid Sharifi and the Tony-winning sound design by David Cromer beautifully work together. The orchestrations through the show were beautiful, whether it be the band playing as scenes changed or one of the songs sung by the cast. One of my favorite moments came as music would start playing on a radio and then slowly build up into the band playing onstage. The orchestrations had a balanced mix of what you would expect from a Broadway show but had the flair you get from music in the middle east.

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.

Joining Gaby in the leading role of Diana was Janet Dacal, who has been featured in the original Broadway cast of "Prince of Broadway, "Wonderland," and "In the Heights." From the moment she came on stage, she captivated the audience. One of my most memorable moments of the evening came in her performance of "Omar Sharif," as her character recounted growing up listening to the movies of Omar Sharif. Her interpretation of the song allowed the audience to enter her character's world in a way that you don't often see. It was stunning.

The entire cast is phenomenal and makes this a not to be missed production. While I could go on and on about this show, I feel two other moments made for a memorable evening that I can share without giving too much away. The first comes from Clay Singer as Itzik, as he sings "Itzik's Lullaby" and sings his character's infant son to sleep. The other moment comes from Joshua Grosso as he sings "Answer Me" towards the show's end. Throughout the show, we have seen his character waiting for his girlfriend to call for the show, and at this point, she hasn't called, and he lets us in as his character starts to lose hope that she is going to call. The song is both beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.

After a 19 month intermission, it feels so good to say that Broadway is finally back! This means national tours are heading out across the country again. I am thrilled that Des Moines got to be part of the first few stops of the return of the tour of "The Band's Visit." This production is one I will not soon forget. I am already looking at the tour schedule to see when it will be close so I can see it again as I cannot make it to another performance. If you are looking for a mesmerizing show that will help you escape from the current time we are living in, I can't think of a better show. Performances of this show, winner of 10 Tony Awards, plays through October 17. To purchase tickets, or to find out more, visit https://desmoinesperformingarts.org/events/the-bands-visit/

Review was written by DC Felton
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David Felton has been involved in theatre since his middle school production of The Wizard of Oz. Throughout high school he stayed onstage, and once he got to college he started exploring thebackst... (read more about this author)


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