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BWW Review: THE BAND'S VISIT at Golden Gate Theatre

The Band's Visit continues through February 6th at the Golden Gate Theatre.

BWW Review: THE BAND'S VISIT at Golden Gate Theatre

The Band's Visit

Music and Lyrics by David Yazbek

Book by Itamar Moses

Directed by David Cromer

Golden Gate Theatre

Travelling productions do not come more lauded than The Band's Visit, winner of ten Tony Awards including best musical and a 2019 Grammy for best musical theater album. This is not your typical musical with hummable showtunes and slick choreography, rather an intimate, tranquil story that unfolds beautifully with little narrative bang. David Yasbek's lovely ethnic score transports us to Israel's isolated Negev desert where an unlikely meeting of longtime neighboring enemies, Arab and Israeli, unfolds without any politics or anger.

BWW Review: THE BAND'S VISIT at Golden Gate Theatre
Dina (Janet Dacal) and Tewfiq (Sasson Gabay)

The Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra arrives in Israel expecting to perform at the opening of an Arab Cultural Center in the town of Petah Tikvah, but an accent mishap has them travelling to Bet Hatikva, a sleepy one café town. With no bus out till the next day, the band must make do with the hospitality of the townsfolk. Dina the café owner and some friends sing of their monotony in" Waiting" and "Welcome to Nowhere." Not much happens in Bet Hatikva and Itamar Moses' story gently unveils the similarities between the cultures, their disappointments, and joys.

BWW Review: THE BAND'S VISIT at Golden Gate Theatre
The company of The Band's Visit North American Tour

A series of subplots reveal the bonding between the band members and the townsfolk. Telephone Guy (Joshua Grosso) who waits by the phone for his absent girlfriend to call ("Answer Me"), Simon (James Rana), whose late wife loved music ("The Beat of Your Heart"), Dina's homage to Egyptian movie starts ("Omar Sharif") and Papi's (Coby Getzug) courtship woes ("Papi Hears the Ocean") each involve the Egyptian musicians. There's some amazing instrumental interludes between scenes that blend klezmer with traditional Arabic folk and classical genres.

The relationship that blossoms between Dina (Janet Dacal) and Tewfiq (Sasson Gabay) is beautifully acted, especially when she wonders how it is to be a conductor and mimics his hand gestures while he sings "Itgara'a." There are moments of great tenderness played out among the townspeople and the band, a sense of longing and purpose pervades the subplots. The by chance encounter may affect everyone's lives, perhaps providing hope and release from their status quo.

BWW Review: THE BAND'S VISIT at Golden Gate Theatre
Itzik (Clay Singer)

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.

The Band's Visit challenges its audience with unconventional pacing, song structures and narrative construction. If you let it wash over you, you'll be surprised by its humanity and passions.

The Band's Visit continues through February 6th at the Golden Gate Theatre. Tickets are currently available at broadwaysf.com.

Photo credit: Evan Zimmerman



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