Review Roundup: The National Tour of THE BAND'S VISIT
The first national tour of The Band's Visit is now making its way across the country!
After a mix-up at the border, an Egyptian Police Band is sent to a remote village in the middle of the Israeli desert. With no bus until morning and no hotel in sight, these unlikely travelers are taken in by the locals. Under the spell of the desert sky, their lives become intertwined in the most unexpected ways. THE BAND'S VISIT celebrates the deeply human ways music, longing and laughter can connect us all.
The tour currently stars Sasson Gabay as Tewfiq, Chilina Kennedy as Dina, Pomme Koch as Itzik, Joe Joseph as Haled, Mike Cefalo as Telephone Guy, Adam Gabay as Papi, Ronnie Malley as Camal, David Studwell as Avrum, Jennifer Apple as Anna, Marc Ginsburg as Sammy, Kendal Hartse as Iris, Sara Kapner as Julia, James Rana as Simon, and Or Schraiber as Zelger. Nick Sacks, Loren Lester, Hannah Shankman, Danny Burgos and Bligh Voth complete the cast.
THE BAND'S VISIT features music and lyrics by Tony and Drama Desk Award winner David Yazbek, and a book by Tony Award, NY Drama Critics Circle, Lortel and Outer Critics Circle awards winner Itamar Moses. It is based on the screenplay by Eran Kolirin, and is directed by Tony, Drama Desk, Lortel & Obie Award winner David Cromer.
The creative team also includes Patrick McCollum (Choreography), Scott Pask (Set Design), Sarah Laux (Costume Design), Tony Award winner Tyler Micoleau (Lighting Design), Tony Award winner Kai Harada (Sound Design), Maya Ciarrocchi (Projection Design), Charles G. LaPointe (Hair Designer), Tony Award winner Jamshied Sharifi (Orchestrations), Andrea Grody (Music Supervisor, Music Director & Additional Arrangements) and Dean Sharenow (Music Supervisor & Music Coordinator).
Let's see what the critics are saying...
David Siegel, DC Metro Theater Arts: What struck me about The Band's Visit beyond the terrific performances is this. The Band's Visit is not just about a particular fictional village. It is not just about a particular time in the distant past when cell phones were not ubiquitous, the Internet was not as we now know it, and roller skating with a spinning disco ball was a major date night. No. The Band's Visit is about people of different cultures and languages connecting over messed-up relationships, disappointments, boredom, loneliness, and life's losses by common ground and humanity through music. It is about taking chances with one's eyes open.
Susan Galbraith, DC Theatre Scene: Gabay and Kennedy carry the story, and they are both marvelous, but their relationship is not one of a musical comedy romance. The restraint in their portrayals and the limitations imposed on the emotional scope of their portrayals and the limitations of the scope of the arc of their characters' journeys are part of the strength of this work. Ensemble of The Band's Visit touring company at The Kennedy Center. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)Let's be clear, the creative partnership of David Yazbek, who created the music and lyrics, and Itamar Moses, who wrote the book, have wrought what is clearly intended as an ensemble piece, and this delicate architecture is seen throughout, with one moment melting into another, song into speech, scene into other scene.
Lynne Menefee, MD Theatre Guide: Big things sometimes come in small, understated packages. "The Band's Visit," currently playing at the Kennedy Center is truly one of the most astounding and beautiful pieces of theater - near perfection on every level. It also has the rare distinction of being one of the most Tony®-winning musicals in history - 10 in total, including the 2018 Tony for Best Musical. It also won a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album, among its many other awards. Directed by Tony,® Drama Desk, Lortel, and Obie Award winner David Cromer, The Band's Visit is based on the acclaimed 2007 Israeli film of the same name. Cromer seamlessly weaves the story with choreography by Patrick McCollum, the onstage performances of the musicians, the actors, and the nimble, rotating set. Scott Pask's set is complemented by Tony Award® winners Tyler Micoleau for Lighting Design and Kai Harada for Sound Design. The creative team and incredible ensemble cast a powerful spell.
André Hereford, Metro Weekly: There are no bad songs in The Band's Visit. In fact, the 10-time Tony-winning musical, with music and lyrics by David Yazbek, has enough memorable, lushly romantic, or sardonically funny tunes that it might be hard to choose a favorite. It seems every scene in the show - based on the eponymous 2007 film about an 8-man band from Egypt stuck for a night in a tiny, Israeli desert town - is unerringly complemented by just the right musical mood. David Comer's Broadway staging, currently on a tour that's just arrived at the Kennedy Center, 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. And the relaxed rhythms create a gentle sense of motion, despite a story largely about waiting in place.
Lawrence Toppman, The Charlotte Observer: How often does a musical depend on silence? Not pauses to change a set or provide a breather to a star after a spectacular number, but true intervals of quiet where the characters and audience digest emotions in peace. "The Band's Visit" offers an unusual number of those moments. The setting, an Israeli desert town where an Egyptian police band gets stuck overnight, makes it almost a cliché to call "Visit" an oasis of calm amid the hurly-burly of touring musicals. But that's what it is.
Hedy Weiss, WTTW: The relationship between the formerly married Dina and the mournfully widowed Tewfiq unfolds during an evening stroll to a nonexistent park marked only by a single bench, where Dina rapturously recalls the Arabic music she listened to on the radio in her youth, as well as her dreamy crush on Omar Sharif. Kennedy's beautiful voice is ideal for the show's already iconic song about the film star, and with her perfect Israeli-accented English, she captures her character's tough-as-nails attitude ("life is what it is"), as well as her well-cloaked vulnerability. At the same time, Gabay effortlessly embodies the very proper Tewfiq, a shy, sensitive man who is nervous about doing anything that might embarrass his country, and is cautious about revealing his private life.
Ben Kaye, Newcity Stage: For those who were lucky enough to see the show in New York, Cromer has magically retained the intimacy and human pace of the original show in the gargantuan Cadillac Palace Theatre. Sasson Gabay, as the band's conductor, breaks hearts as a man whose desire to take great action in life has dried out. Chilina Kennedy as Dina, running the town's small cafe, is yearning and desire incarnate and completely owns the stage. And alongside an altogether emotionally resonant ensemble is the band itself, who fill the air with music that will capture your heart and whose post-curtain call "concert" will have you leaping to your feet in applause.
Rachel Weinberg, BroadwayWorld: Under Cromer's direction, the cast easily hits all the emotional beats in THE BAND'S VISIT. In the central roles of Dina and Tewliq, Chilina Kennedy and Sasson Gabay (reprising his role from the film upon which the musical is based) have a fantastic rapport, capturing that sense of strangers who are both foreign and yet familiar to one another. Kennedy's vocal performance is expert and emotionally nuanced; her rendition of Dina's solo "Omar Sharif" manages to be simultaneously quotidian and immense. The song relays Dina's experiences growing up with the films of the actor Omar Sharif, an exercise in nostalgia that transports the character-and actor-into a dreamlike state as she's wrapped up in the memories. Kennedy delivers on all the complexities of that frame of mind in her take.
Mal Vincent, The Virginian-Pilot: "The Band's Visit" got the usual standing ovation from the local audience, but the natives were restless in the lobby. Yes, the show was slowly paced, even slower than it was on Broadway. But "The Band's Visit" shows how live theater can weave a spell when chances are taken. It will stand out as the most original of this Chrysler Hall season.
Andrea Simakis, Cleveland.com: As Dina sings "Omar Sharif," describing how those mysterious sights and sounds enthralled her, Tewfiq is as beguiled as the rest of us. Sasson Gabay shows us Tewfiq's struggle to stay anchored against the insistent current of Dina in achingly subtle ways: in an inclination of his noble head or a sudden rare smile that lights his face. Under that Sgt. Pepper uniform is a man with a broken heart that has yet to mend. As the dawn breaks, we know they are fire and water. But oh, how splendid their steam.
Gwendolyn Kochur, Cleveland Scene: "Once, not too long ago, a group of musicians came to Israel from Egypt. You probably didn't hear about it. It wasn't very important." These self-deprecating lines are projected to the audience seconds before The Band's Visit begins. And yes, in the grand scheme of things, the story wasn't important, but this production is. With delicacy and grace, The Band's Visit teaches us that not every story worth telling needs to be of epic proportions. The quiet moments in which we live the majority of our lives can be just as beautiful.
Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: On Broadway, the uptight bandleader with a painful secret, Colonel Tewfiq, was played by Green Bay native Tony Shalhoub, who won a Tony. On this tour we get Israeli actor Sasson Gabay, who originated this role in the 2007 movie that inspired the musical. Not too shabby. But the real star is Chilina Kennedy as Dina, the restless, warm-blooded owner of the local cafe, who shows Tewfiq around and wonders about the possibility of something romantic with him. "Nothing's as beautiful as something that you don't expect," she sings in "Something Different." Anyone who's ever fallen in love with another culture, or with a person from another culture, will appreciate her other featured number, "Omar Sharif."
Gwen Rice, On Milwaukee: As Dina, Kennedy is riveting. At the cafe, she is cynical and deliberately unengaged. At home, describing her ex while swinging a large knife at a watermelon, she is bitter and vengeful. With long curly locks and a drapey floral dress of red and black, Kennedy's Dina is barely contained sensuality as she demands the band's reserved director Tewfiq (Sasson Gabay) to accompany her on a date. Sitting across from him in a dingy restaurant during her show-stopping song "Omar Sharif," she is a ravishing combination of dreams, nostalgia and vulnerability. Moving with the artistry of a ballerina, Dina mimics Tewfiq's movements as he explains how to conduct an orchestra. It is one of the most beautiful and erotic moments contained a musical, especially notable because the two barely touch.
Kelsey Lawler, BroadwayWorld: What kind of perspective are you bringing as you settle into your seat at the Marcus Center this holiday weekend? The Band's Visit celebrates the intimate, authentic, and real; the facets of life that connect us and make us all human. It's an uplifting reminder of all that we share and of what good and beauty can come when we open our doors and hearts to the unknown. This is the Thanksgiving show Milwaukee needs, and I'm so glad we've got it.
Kathryn Gregory, Louisville Courier Journal: The onstage musicians play classical Arabic music throughout the production that helps weave the entire story together. The musicians - Tony Bird, George Crotty, Evan Francis, Roger Kashou and Ronnie Malley - are so talented that it's not the least bit surprising these men, in their powder blue Egyptian police band uniforms, get the loudest standing ovation and cheers from the audience during a surprise encore after the curtain call (so don't leave early!). In a PNC Broadway in Louisville season that also features "The Lion King," "Miss Saigon," and "Jesus Christ Superstar," a simple story like "The Band's Visit" is definitely the sleeper of the season. But it's also the most relatable. It's a story of love, missed opportunities and the power of music to overcome any difference. t's a story of life.
Dominic P. Papatola, St. Paul Pioneer Press: The potent and stirring finale is emblematic of the simplicity and bravery of the score, eschewing the belty, emotions-on-the-sleeve, gotta-be-a-hit demands of most contemporary Broadway ballads. Instead, the song begins with a simple, meandering piano line and a solo voice. It ends with the entire company on stage; together but still apart, cultural boundaries eliminated but emotional barriers harder to resolve. "When the sun and moon and stars are gone, all that's left is only you," they sing, pleading "Will you answer me?" It's a quietly searing moment, and it serves as a calling card for why "The Band's Visit" - a musical with seemingly simple aspirations - thrums with humor, heart and humanity. It's well worth seeing, and if you go, here's a quick pro tip: Don't rush to your feet as the cast is taking their bows. Stick around for another few minutes for one more number by the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra. You won't be sorry.
Chris Hewitt, The Star Tribune: The final touring musical to arrive in the Twin Cities this year is also the best and, honestly, it's not even close. It's not as glitzy or loud as everything else in Hennepin Theatre Trust's season, and you should be prepared for not a lot to happen, but "The Band's Visit" is flat-out gorgeous. It's based on a fairy tale-like 2007 movie from Israel about an Egyptian band that accidentally goes to the wrong city in Israel. Stuck in Bet Hatikva, a tiny town whose residents aren't sure why they're there, the band members make the best of it - roaming around and interacting with villagers in ways that reveal that, in fact, they are exactly where they need to be.