A new musical opened Thursday night after a successful run off-Broadway. Here's Roma Torre with a review of "The Band's Visit."
"The Band’s Visit" is a most unusual Broadway musical; and while it’s beautifully crafted and performed, this one’s very much an acquired taste. The story concerning a group of strangers entering a foreign land may remind some of “Come From Away,” but so subdued and muted is "The Band’s Visit," it’s more like "Come From Away" in a minor key.
Based on a film, it concerns an Egyptian police band headed to Israel to perform at a Cultural Center, but through a miscommunication, they end up in the wrong town with a similar sounding name and the difference is night and day.
The fictional desert outpost of Beit Hatikva seems to be in perpetual limbo. Nothing happens there and the residents are bored out of their minds. At first, they don’t know how to take these visitors in police uniform. Are they friend or foe?
Through a series of vignettes, we discover that these townsfolk have been culturally abandoned and they’re hungry for new blood. And during this one night, while waiting for a bus to take them away, the band, led by the terrifically under-stated Tony Shalhoub, provides the stimulation these unfulfilled folks crave.
The production, helmed by composer David Yazbek, book writer Itamar Moses, and director David Cromer is charmingly offbeat and haunting.
Yazbeck’s eclectic songs illuminate these dusty lives with subtle humor and bittersweet longing. And while the tempo is slow and there’s little action, the characters, as written and portrayed, are engagingly real.
Everyone shines in this production. John Cariani is always fun to watch as a goofball with a heart. And Katrina Lenk, luminous earlier this year in “Indecent," is incandescent here, cooly disengaged on the outside while inside a cauldron of seductive heat.
"The Band’s Visit” is all about the human desire for connection, no matter how tentative or brief. I’m not sure it will connect with everyone, but it’s the product of a most harmonious collaboration featuring artists at the top of their game.