Review: ‘The Band’s Visit’ turns theater into sound garden
“The group visit“forces you to listen louder than any other show, to drink deeply from the joy and loneliness baked in throughout.
Rather than thrill you with over-the-top dance numbers and high-octane belts, the show embraces silence, with several scenes lacking any music or dialogue, leaving audiences desperate for the next pluck of a string.
The show follows an Egyptian band, the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra, as they travel to Israel for a concert, but a language mix-up at the bus terminal sends them to Bet Hatikva, a small town in the middle of nowhere. , rather than the same name. Petah Tikva.
The leader of the group, Tewfiq (played by Sasson Gabay), realizes their dilemma when he asks local cafe owner Dina (in-waiting Hannah Shankman) for directions. She then explains where they are and that they are stuck there until the next bus arrives the next morning. Suddenly blocked, Dina opens her house and offers to help her find other inhabitants to welcome the group for the night.
Tewfiq and the laid-back Haled (Joe Joseph) stay with Dina while Camal (Yoni Avi Battat) and Simon (James Rana) spend the night with new dad Itzik (Clay Singer) and his family.
As day slowly turns to night, the plot twists into three storylines: Dina decides to take Tewfiq to town, Haled joins Grandpa (Coby Getzug) for a double date at the ice rink, and Camal and Simon stay with him. Itzik, his wife Iris. (Kendal Hartse) and her stepfather Avrum (David Studwell) for dinner.
In the subtext of every interaction is the long and turbulent history between neighbors Israel and Egypt, with the controversial start of the State of Israel leading to multiple wars and poor living conditions. Palestinians in areas occupied by Israel. Although Egypt was the first country to recognize Israel in 1979, the relationship has since been characterized as a “cold peace” with very little relationship outside of military operations.
But the conflict is never made explicit, leaving the intricacies of the characters’ dialogue lost on some. While there is never outright hostility, there is a level of mistrust between two strangers.
The strange and unfamiliar feeling is part of almost every scene, especially the one between Dina and Tewfiq as she opens up to this quiet, closed man and they discover how much they have in common.
Dina sings how “the ship from Egypt has always come / Sailing the radio waves” in “Omar Sharif“when she and her mother listened to the Egyptian singer Umm Kulthūm and watched films with Omar Sharif. She was fascinated by this taste of Arab culture as a child and Tewfiq could share these memories with her, recounting scenes with Dina during dinner.
The relationship between Dina and Tewfiq is at the heart of the show and even stronger than in the 2007 film, the musical adapts, also titled “The Band Visit”. The film tells the exact same story, but without any vocals. The emotional foundation is built by Tewfiq actor Gabay, who reprized his role for the national tour and finds even more depth in the character on stage than on screen.
This development is made clearer and more heartbreaking in “Itgara’a“, a song that follows Dina asking her what it’s like to “make music”. drink, drink deep / drink deep from moonlight / drink deep from darkness / loneliness / joy.”
Dina slips back into the same trance she described in “Omar Sharif,” mimicking her movements and inviting the audience into the wonderment they didn’t see coming, “Nothing is as beautiful as something you don’t expect.”
It’s clear why ‘The Band’s Visit’ won the 2018 Tony Awards by taking home 10 awards, including Best Musical, beating out ‘Mean Girls’, ‘Frozen’ and ‘SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical’. It takes you into a dreary world and tells you one of the most fanatical stories you’ll see on stage.
With a Gammage season as star-studded as this, including “Hamilton”, “Hadestown”, “Come from Away” and “Mean Girls”. “The Band’s Visit” is a must for any musical lover and anyone looking for something magical.
“The Band’s Visit” plays at ASU Gammage from February 8-13, with tickets ranging from $10-$174.
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