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The Band's Visit is a stage musical with music and lyrics by David Yazbek and a book by Itamar Moses, based on the 2007 Israeli film of the same name. The musical opened on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in November 2017, after its off-Broadway premiere at the Atlantic Theater Company in December 2016.
The Band's Visit has received critical acclaim. Its off-Broadway production won several major awards, including the 2017 Obie Award for Musical Theatre, as well the year's New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical. At the 72nd Tony Awards, it was nominated for 11 awards and won 10, including Best Musical. The Band's Visit is one of four musicals in Broadway history to win the unofficial "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.
The original production premiered in Off-Broadway previews at the Atlantic Theater Company on November 11, 2016, had its official opening on December 8, 2016, and closed on January 8, 2017. The musical was developed and produced with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Laurents/Hatcher Foundation, and the National Alliance for Musical Theatre's National Fund for New Musicals. The musical was directed by David Cromer with choreography by Patrick McCollum and movement by Lee Sher and starred Tony Shalhoub, Katrina Lenk, and John Cariani.The musical began previews on Broadway on October 7, 2017, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre prior to an official opening on November 9, 2017.On September 10, 2018, the producers announced that it had recouped its $8.75 million capitalization cost.
In 1996, the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra, just arrived in Israel, are waiting in Tel Aviv's central bus station. The group's leader, the quiet Colonel Tewfiq Zakaria, instructs the younger, adventurous officer, Haled, to purchase the group's bus tickets. At the ticket office, Haled asks the clerk for a ticket to the city of Petah Tikvah, but due to her Hebrew accent and his Egyptian accent, he ends up with tickets to the isolated desert town of "Bet Hatikva".
The scene shifts to Bet Hatikva, where the residents bemoan the boring and monotonous lives they lead in the desert ("Waiting"). When the band arrives in Bet Hatikva, they approach two cafe workers - Papi and Itzik, trying to find the location of the Arab cultural centre for their performance the next day. Unsure who these men are and what they're asking about, they get the café's owner, a charismatic woman named Dina. Tewfiq again asks for directions to the cultural centre before Dina realizes they think this is Petah Tikvah, and explains that this is the wrong place, and they must have taken the wrong bus ("Welcome to Nowhere"). Dina tells the group that the next bus does not arrive until the next day. One of the band members looks for a phone to contact the Egyptian embassy, but Dina tells him that the only pay phone in town is guarded over, every night, by a man who obsessively waits for his girlfriend to call him, even though it has been months. Dina offers the band a meal and a place to stay for the night, and Tewfiq reluctantly agrees. In her kitchen, Tewfiq asks her about her background, and she tells how she was once married, and nothing in real life went as she had idealistically and naively thought ("It Is What It Is"). She asks Tewfiq the same, and he tells of a wife and son in Egypt.
Meanwhile, Itzik allows the band member Simon to stay with him, his wife, their baby, and his father-in-law, Avrum. During dinner, Simon asks what happened to Avrum's wife, and Avrum says she passed away. When Simon asks when she passed, he is silenced; Avrum says it is healthy for him to talk about it. He tells the story of how he met his wife many years ago at a club and remembers how music had been the foundation for their entire relationship. Itzik and Simon are touched by the story, but Itzik's wife continues to eat silently, avoiding all interaction during the meal ("The Beat of Your Heart").
That night, everyone makes plans to go out. Papi is invited on a double date with his crush but suffers from anxiety about going out with her. Haled tags along. Dina offers to show Tewfiq around Bet Hatikva, which he again is reluctant to accept. At dinner, Dina asks Tewfiq about what style of music his band plays. After he claims they stick to traditional Arab music, she mentions how as a child she would listen to music on Egyptian radio stations, from the likes of Umm Kulthum, and movies starring Omar Sharif. Tewfiq quotes one of the movies in question and they bond over the shared memories ("Omar Sharif").
At the roller skating rink, Haled watches from afar as Papi continues to ignore his crush and clumsily skate. After Papi defuses a brief altercation between Haled and one of the guards at the rink, Papi explains his romantic anxieties to Haled ("Papi Hears the Ocean"). After accidentally causing his crush to slip on her skates and fall down, Papi is petrified yet again. Haled helps to boost Papi's confidence, which leads to Papi and his crush finally embracing each other ("Haled's Song About Love").
After their dinner, Dina takes Tewfiq to "The Park", which is just a bench in the middle of Bet Hatikva. She asks him what it is like to have an orchestra and play music for people. He initially stutters, but after she asks him to sing, he begins to show her what it's like to be a conductor by allowing her to mimic his arm motions as he sings ("Itgara'a"). Despite not being able to understand his Arabic lyrics, she remains mesmerized by him and wonders if his visit to Bet Hatikva was meant for her by fate ("Something Different").
Itzik sings his son to sleep ("Itzik's Lullaby"), but in frustration with his lack of ambition in life, his wife leaves. Simon is initially concerned, but Itzik tells him that this happens often and she always returns. Soon, she does, and their son begins to cry. Simon is able to soothe the infant by playing his original concerto on his clarinet. Itzik and his wife reconcile, and Simon says goodbye to Avrum before going to bed.
Dina finally asks more about Tewfiq's life. When she approaches the topic of his son, he reveals that he and his son never quite got along, which has bothered Tewfiq to this day and was the likely reason of his son's suicide. He also tells how his wife ended her life, as well, due to the heartbreak. Now visibly distraught, Tewfiq resists Dina's romantic advances as Haled arrives with news that the bus will be there in the morning to take them to Petah Tikvah. Tewfiq starts to leave the room, upset, while Dina solemnly recalls the meaning of their relationship ("Something Different (Reprise)"). Once Tewfiq is gone, Haled jokingly compliments her eyes, and she kisses him forcefully.
Distraught, the 'telephone guy' questions his devotion to his loved one as he continues to wait by the pay phone. He and the citizens of Bet Hatikva long for the presence of a meaning to their lives as they anticipate the return to normalcy ("Answer Me"). Suddenly, just as 'telephone guy' gives up hope, the phone rings and he speaks to his girlfriend for the first time in months.
The following morning, the band gathers by Dina's cafe before they prepare to board the next bus. As they begin to board, Dina hands Tewfiq a piece of paper with "Petah Tikvah" on it to ensure he doesn't forget.
Later that day, the band makes it to the Petah Tikvah's Arab cultural centre. Once they are in their places, Tewfiq begins to conduct, and the stage cuts to black.
Off-Broadway versus Broadway productions
In addition to numerous script tweaks, the musical arrangements for several songs were updated for the Broadway production. "Itzik's Lullaby", for example, was changed from a solo piece to a partial duet with Camal singing in Arabic.
Based on the tracklist from the cast recording released on December 15, 2017
"Overture" – The Band
"Waiting" – The Residents of Bet Hatikva
"Welcome to Nowhere" – Dina, Itzik, Papi
"It Is What It Is" – Dina
"Beat Of Your Heart" – Avrum, Itzik, Simon, Camal
"Soraya" – The Band (added for Broadway, replacing "Aziza")
"Omar Sharif" – Dina
"Haj-Butrus" – The Band
"Papi Hears the Ocean" – Papi
"Haled's Song About Love" – Haled, Papi
"The Park" (Dialogue Track) – Dina, Tewfiq
"Itgara'a" – Tewfiq
"Something Different" – Dina, Tewfiq
"Itzik's Lullaby" – Itzik and Camal (Camal added for Broadway)
"Something Different" (Reprise) – Dina
"Answer Me" – Telephone Guy and Ensemble
"The Concert" – The BandIn addition, Boney M.'s cover of "Sunny" is heard in the roller rink, and Rodgers and Hart's "My Funny Valentine" is performed by Haled on the trumpet in the style of Chet Baker.
Characters and original cast
On June 11, 2018, it was announced that Sasson Gabai, who originated the role of Tewfiq in the film, would reprise his role in the stage adaptation.
On September 18, 2018, it was announced that Brandon Uranowitz would replace John Cariani as Itzik on October 9 of that year.Critical response
In the review of the Off-Broadway production, the Huffington Post called the musical "exquisite", noting that Itamar Moses and David Yazbek have "created a small, touching show... [with] character depth and strong sense of place."According to Forbes, by October 2017, the Broadway show was "making a great impression" with critics with its first seven performances. The Broadway production, which featured a revised script and score, was praised by the Twin Cities Arts Reader as "one of the best new musicals of the year, gifted with a beautiful score and touching performances." The New York Times said it was "one of the most ravishing musicals you will ever be seduced by," and also "a Broadway rarity seldom found these days outside of the canon of Stephen Sondheim: an honest-to-God musical for grown-ups." It also praised the adaptation for the bigger stage, due to an "impeccably coordinated creative team." Deadline also gave the musical a positive review. The review's only criticism was that seating at a far distance in the new theater made the sound somewhat muddled and sight lines limited.The Chicago Tribune gave the "weird new Broadway musical" a very positive review and said it was a "remarkable and boundlessly compassionate and humanistic piece of theater." Tablet Magazine thought it was "terrific." Entertainment Weekly also reviewed The Band's Visit positively, praising Katrina Lenk's portrayal of the cafe owner Dina as "dazzling." It gave the production an A-, and said it is "understated, probably better described as charming than life-altering, but its scale reinforces the moral themes of the musical itself." The Washington Post observed that "producers unaffiliated with the show say they are heartened by its run," as the "almost minimalist" production was doing well despite not having what seemed to be "a lot of overt commercial potential."
Awards and honors
Original Off-Broadway production
Original Broadway production
Internet Broadway Database
"The Band's Visit" on Facebook