The Band’s Visit
Music and Lyrics by David Yazbek
Book by Itamar Moses
Based on the Screenplay by Eran Kolirin
Directed by David Cromer
A review by Craig Nolan Highley
Entire contents are copyright © 2019 by Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.
The Band’s Visit is an unusually styled musical based on the 2007 Israeli film. Performed without an intermission, it features Arabian-flavored musical numbers and a mostly upbeat plot. It premiered on Broadway in 2017 and is one of only four musicals to win the “Big Six” Tony Awards, which include Best Musical, Best Book, Best Score, Best Actor in a Musical, Best Actress in a Musical, and Best Direction of a Musical.
It has now come to Louisville in the touring version, telling the story of an Egyptian band of musicians who mistakenly come to the wrong Israeli town, but each of the band members finds themselves changed by the locals who befriend them over a single evening.
It is generally a sweet-natured story, full of charming vignettes and anecdotes, punctuated by some lovely Arabic-styled musical numbers that immediately remind you of the best of the Bollywood musicals. I found it glacially paced for its brisk 90 minutes running time with no intermission, but there were definitely moments to cherish.
Highlights in the scattered storyline include the number “The Beat of Your Heart”, in which widower Avrum (David Studwell) describes his life with his late wife over dinner, “Papi Hears the Ocean” in which the character Papi (Adam Gabay) describes his difficulty relating to women, and “Answer Me”, where a sad man (Mike Sefalo) pines away at a payphone for his girlfriend to call him, whom he hasn’t heard from in months.
The story’s centerpiece though is the relationship between bandleader Tefiq (Sasson Gabay) and café owner Dina (Chilina Kennedy). They meet cute and become very close over the course of the evening, and they manage to help each other deal with past tragedies.
All of the performers have great singing voices, and for the most part, the acting is tops as well (though I have to say Kennedy’s overdone accent does grate on your nerves after a while), especially in the supporting roles.
I do wish the show had stronger direction from David Cromer, as it really needed tightening up. Patrick McCollum’s choreography is very understated, as there are no truly huge production numbers, but it serves the material well. And I particularly liked Scott Pask’s set design, creating at various times a Tel Aviv bus station, a small Israeli town, and various locations within.
Overall I found it a pleasant show that is not without flaws, but even at just 90 minutes, it felt a bit long. But don’t rush out after the curtain call; there is a nice button at the end.
Featuring Jennifer Apple, Danny Burgos, Mike Cefalo, Adam Gabay, Sasson Gabay, Marc Ginsburg, Joe Joseph, Kendal Hartse, Sara Kapner, Chilina Kennedy, Pomme Koch, Loren Lester, Ronnie Malley, James Rana, Nick Sacks, Or Schraiber, Hannah Shankman, David Studwell, and Bligh Voth.
The Band’s Visit
December 3-8, 2019
PNC Broadway in Louisville
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Craig Nolan Highley has been active in local theatre as an actor, director and producer for more than 14 years. In June 2019 he launched a new company with Jeremy Guiterrez, Theatre Reprise. He has worked with Bunbury Theater, Clarksville Little Theatre, Finnigan Productions, Louisville Repertory Company, Savage Rose Classical Theatre Co., and WhoDunnit Murder Mystery Theatre among others. He has been a member of the Wayward Actors Company since 2006, and currently serves as their Board President. Craig’s reviews have also appeared in TheatreLouisville and Louisville Mojo.