Details: More information can be found at https://thebandsvisitmusical.com/ and http://www.playbill.com/production/the-bands-visit-ethel-barrymore-theatre-2017-2018
The Band’s Visit is a slow burn. It’s a slow paced story with few if any big bursts of energy. However, The Band’s Visit offers something new and different from other shows out right now. It’s no wonder then that it won the Tony Award for best musical this year since all of the competing candidates were big name franchises that fell into the stereotypical tourist friendly musical which does not explore the human condition the way The Band’s Visit did.
The Band’s Visit is about an Egyptian band that travels to Israel for a performance. They accidentally travel to a town of a similar name that is tiny and in the middle of no where. As they weight for transport out of the town, the band engage with the townspeople and a bond grows between the two groups.
As said above, this is a slow show, intentionally so. It takes place in the middle of nowhere. Further, this is a story about loneliness and the bonds people can make. If you aren’t open to theater, I can easily see how this show would be boring to you. However, The Band’s Visit offered me a look at relationships that I haven’t seen in a while in entertainment. It’s bittersweet.
The music is definitely Middle Eastern in nature. What’s impressive is that members of the band play minor roles in the theatrics. After each scene change, the band will often take center stage and play some music for the audience. These pieces were as engaging as the actual plot of the show and help inject energy in an otherwise slow show.
The actual music that was sung is also pretty great. It’s relatively slow, whimsical, romantic melodies that convey an image of wind blowing. Many of the songs are very funny, which is also nice. My favorite song is the only one where everyone in the cast participates. I won’t say more than that since there is some narrative and thematic significance to the song.
The standout performance in the show is clearly from Katrina Lenk. Katrina plays Dina, a lonely, middle aged woman who lives in the town. Her songs show the most emotion and her performance shows the most desperation and loneliness. It’s not an extreme display of emotion though. Keep in mind, this show is a slow burn.
Additionally, I really enjoyed seeing Egyptians and Israelis getting along. I don’t know if anyone reading this is familiar with the politics of the Middle East, but things are almost always pretty hairy. The message (or propaganda) from all parties involved with that region politics generally lean away from peace and more towards war. It was nice to see something that showed Arabs and Isarelis coexisting rather than killing each other.
Overall, this is a great show. This is probably not a good show for tourists looking for a big, high energy production. This is probably a good show for open minded people with decent attention spans.