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Review: THE BAND'S VISIT At The Aronoff Center

Review: THE BAND'S VISIT At The Aronoff Center

Let this gem of a show slowly wash over you like a tide at daybreak, because if you lean in and examine the nuances, much like the beach, it's a beautiful view.

Broadway shows often go for the "more is more" approach. It's very rare that a musical rooted in subtlety and calm can rise to the surface and find an audience. In 2018, after an acclaimed off-Broadway run, The Band's Visit opened on Broadway to rave reviews and subsequently made a splash at the Tony Awards, taking home the coveted trophy for Best Musical as well as nine others. David Yazbek wrote one of his most unique and touching scores for the project, earning the award for Best Score. In the summer of 2019, the show launched its first national tour, which has now finally landed in Cincinnati.

The story is simple: "Once not very long ago a group of musicians came to Israel from Egypt. You probably didn't hear about it. It wasn't very important." This phrase in big bold lettering greets the audience as a preface to the 90 minute musical we are about to experience. The show is about an Egyptian band on the way to a concert in Israel, and due to a miscommunication at the bus station, the band members end up in a small town in the middle of nowhere without a bus in sight. They are greeted by Dina, a cafe owner and the small community she lives in, who all agree to feed and house the band for the night. What comes after is a moving musical exploration of relationships, human kindness, and complacency.

The show is lead by Sasson Gabay as Tewfiq, the band's leader. Gabay is notably reprising his role after having originated it in the film from 2007; he also played the role on Broadway for a large portion of its run. Gabay is almost stowick in nature, but never cold. Gabay's performance is subtle, but no less impactful to the story than his counterpart, Janet Decal as Dina. Decal's Dina is beaten down, tired, and complacent. She's cold but not uncaring, and ultimately she becomes the heart of the story as she and Tewfiq spend more time together. Gabay doesn't sing much, but Decal sings quite a bit, and her numbers are understandably the highlights of the show.

The rest of the cast is universally strong, with many of them playing their own instruments. Outside of the two leads, this show feels very much like an ensemble piece. Everyone gets a moment to shine as the lives of the band members and the small isreali community intertwine for one night. Coby Getzug really steals the show with a comedic --but very relatable portrayal--of Papi, who has trouble talking to women. Another standout for me personally was Ali Louis Bourzgui as Haled. Bourzgui has great moments of humor, and he and Getzug shine together in a delightful and heartwarming sequence that takes place in a very unlikely setting. Finally I must give a shoutout to Kendal Hartse as Iris. The role is small, but incredibly impactful in some of the later moments of the show. Hartse does so much with the little time she has, and ultimately made me shed a tear. Without spoilers, when the entire cast comes together in the climax of the show, you will get chills throughout your body from the sheer majesty you're hearing.

The design of the show is simple. A central set piece and a turntable do wonders to transport us into the world of the characters. I also must give credit to Tyler Micoleau, who designed some of the most subtle but beautiful lights I've seen for the stage.

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.

This show isn't your typical broadway fare, which is exactly why you should see it. It's a peek behind the curtain of human nature, and much like life, a lot of questions go unanswered and that is ultimately the beauty of the piece. I urge everyone to go in with an open mind, and let this gem of a show slowly wash over you like a tide at daybreak, because if you lean in and examine the nuances, much like the beach, it's a beautiful view.

The Band's Visit

Now - July 24th

Aronoff Center For The Arts

650 Walnut Street Cincinnati, OH 45202.

From This Author - Taylor Clemons

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