THE BAND’S VISIT is a musical that delivers an impactful musical with gorgeous music and finds humor and enchantment in the ennui of a small desert town. THE BAND’S VISIT is playing through March 6th at Broadway San Diego.
THE BAND’S VISIT became an unlikely Broadway hit, winning 10 Tony Awards including Best Musical during its run in New York. Based on the 2007 Israeli film of the same name, it follows a travel mishap in 1996, that led to the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra arriving in the small desert town of Bet Hatikva, when they were supposed to go to Petah Tikvah. They don’t speak the same language and must communicate through varying degrees of broken and accented of English.
The band conductor, Tewfiq (Sasson Gabay), and the band find themselves in the remote town, approaching a small cafe to ask for directions. The cafe is run by Dina (Janet Dacal), who informs them that the next bus isn’t until the morning and the town is so small that they don’t even have a hotel to stay in overnight.
Bet Hatikva is so quiet and uneventful that the people who live there are happy to describe it as “basically bleak and beige and blah blah blah.” As people open their homes to the band members, the story unfurls highlighting the stories of the people in this town.
“Nothing is as beautiful as something you don’t expect.” The story is a study of contradictions: it finds humor in the humdrum details of life, builds romantic tension between people who rarely touch, makes an emotionally changed plot out of a night where very little really happens. It is a Broadway musical that wows with silence, stillness, and intimacy instead of sequins or frenetic dance numbers.
Dacal’s Dina is lonely, direct, and dreams of leaving the town, even though she knows she never will. She is as changeable as the wind, one minute being warm and welcoming to being cold and confrontational. Gabay’s Tewfiq is formal, stiff with both the responsibility as leader of this band and as someone who is haunted by the ghosts of his past.
The rest of the ensemble is engaging and brings life and joy to this lonely town in the desert. Standouts include Haled (Joe Joseph) a ladies’ man whose pickup line is asking people if they know Chet Baker, Joshua Grosso as the Telephone guy, who waits by the town’s only payphone for a call that may not come, Avrum (David Studwell) who joyfully recounts how he won the heart of his late wife, and Camal (Yoni Avi Battat) a fantastic violinist.
The music by David Yazbek is an essential character to the show as it blends the broadway expected character development with musical styles from both cultures. Interspersed between scenes are instrumental interludes that showcase the talents on the clarinet, the oud (an Arab lute), and the darbuka (a type of goblet drum).
The scenic design by Scott Pask brings this beige town caught in the same track to life, and the lighting by Tyer Micoleau is used effectively to highlight when some ordinary moments are shifted slightly by these newcomers’ actions.
Deliberately paced, this 100-minute show has no intermission to interrupt the languid build as the night moves along. The empathy and understanding everyone shows each other is lovely to see in what feels like increasingly divisive times.
THE BAND’S VISIT is about being present, hoping for the change that can be, celebrating that everyone has a story worth exploring.
How to get tickets
THE BAND’S VISIT is playing through March 6th at Broadway San Diego. Ticket and showtime information can be found at backyardrenaissance.com
All patrons who attend THE BAND’S VISIT will be required to either be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and present proof of vaccination or provide proof of the negative results of a COVID-19 PCR test taken within 48 hours of entering the theatre, or a rapid antigen test performed by a medical professional within 12 hours of showtime to attend. Masks are required at all times while indoors.
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