BY: JUSTIN RIMPI
November 2, 2018
“The Band’s Visit” was initially a 2007 Israeli film, but its adaptation on Broadway has seen great success. The play has won 10 Tony Awards, and has just recently passed 400 shows.
“The Band’s Visit” is about a location mix up that leads the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra to a city in Israel called Bet Hatikva. The band is originally from Egypt, and they find themselves in this small city.
The rest of this musical delves into what happens the night that the band and their leader, Tewfiq (Sasson Gabay) spend in Bet Hatikva. A large part of the musical also focuses upon Tewfiq and a café owner, Dina (Katrina Lenk).
As the musical goes on, it looks like the two main characters, Tewfiq and Dina begin falling for one another romantically, with tension rising throughout the play.
Lenk is certainly the standout performer, and it becomes abundantly clear early on why she earned a Tony for her portrayal of Dina. She carries the show along with Gabay, but the same thing could not be said for the rest of the cast. The rest of the cast does not have the same energy as the two leads.
The musical contains 15 songs that are as inconstant in quality as they could have been, but there are certainly more sub-par songs than excellent ones. The story of this musical never seems to get off the ground. It seems that the writers did not really know how to continue.
An accent barrier led to the band finding themselves in the wrong place, but very soon that storyline runs out of steam, and essentially the musical grinds to a screeching halt. Nothing else really happens in this musical. Even though the musical is only 90 minutes, it drags on for stretches due to the slow-moving nature of the storyline.
Many musicals are able to compensate for a poor story with exemplary music, but that is not the case for this particular musical. Instead, “The Band’s Visit” has a poor and slow story to go along with what was mostly poor music.
When the band finds itself in Bet Hatikva, the locals take members of the band to a roller-skating rink, to the park, and to a resident’s home. These events just seem like filler opportunities to have Lenk sing another song. Each time she is on the stage, either on her own, or with Gabay, the musical is much more nuanced and enjoyable.
When the two main characters grace the stage, the audience learns so much about two complicated characters. Insight into their personal lives are learned in these typesof sequences, and frankly there should have been more of them. Those seem to be the best written parts of the musical.
The other scenes lack the poignant nature of those between Lenk and Gabay.
There is a lengthy sequence between a Bet Hatikva resident, Papi, at the ice-skating rink and his crush. Papi ignores her and clumsily skates in this scene. Eventually, Papi winds up embracing his crush. This sequence adds nothing to the musical and does not seem to serve much of a purpose.
On countless occasions, all throughout “The Band’s Visit,” it seems like the script lacked direction and purpose.
Ultimately, “The Band’s Visit” fell short of the lofty expectations that tend to accompany any piece of theater that earns 10 Tony Awards. It is possible this musical took advantage a weak class of musicals, but this musical still missed the mark nonetheless.
“The Band’s Visit” is currently in an open run at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.
Photo by Gold Coast Arts Center.