Oscar E Moore

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THE BAND’S VISIT – the universal language of music

November 12th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore

You will not soon forget THE BAND’S VISIT.  Nor should you.  In a small Israeli town (circa 1996) in the desert – its people are waiting for something different – anything – to happen.  The regularity of their daily life has become tedious and uneventful.

They get their wish fulfilled and then some when unexpectedly an Egyptian band – The Alexandria Ceremonial Police Band arrives by mistake after confusing the names of their intended destination Petah Tikva with this quiet and unassuming village Bet Hatikva.  Lucky for us they made the mistake.

There are no buses until morning.  No hotel.  And so the Band’s conductor Tewfiq (a wondrous Tony Shalhoub) and its seven members are welcomed with generosity – sharing food, overnight accommodations and the all-important universal language called music with various households in the village.

In this world in which we now live you will see that it is possible to understand each other within 24 hours.  One day.  Where acceptance and music translates what is not literally understood.

The language barrier is dealt with charmingly, haltingly and with wry humor as Tewfiq attempts in broken English to explain to Dina (Katrina Lenk) a café proprietor his predicament.  She is beautiful.  She is bored.  She is waiting for her Knight in Shining Armor to rescue her from her stagnant life.

He is controlled.  Gentle.  Kind.  Resisting her charms in this blissful, quietly romantic and absolutely magical journey where we get to savor every economical spoken and sung word by book writer Itamar Moses and score by David Yazbek (music and lyrics) – where the sounds of Israel and Egypt co-mingle with Gershwin and Chet Baker.

Chet Baker plays a very important part in this production as the Romeo of the troupe Haled (an excellent and sexy Ari’el Stachel) repeatedly asks the women he encounters “Do you know Chet Baker?” after telling them they have beautiful eyes.  That’s how he got the wrong ticket to the wrong location.  Again I say – Lucky for us!  He plays his trumpet with a bit of “My Funny Valentine” and his jazz vocals seduce.

I would not be surprised if there is a renewed interest in jazz musician and singer Chet Baker which would be a great thing to happen – along with meeting these most interesting people:  the Telephone Guy (Adam Kantor) patiently waiting to hear from his girlfriend as he stands and guards and waits for the lone village pay phone to ring.

The family dinner with a main course of tension and silence as Itzik (John Cariani) along with his wife, Kristen Sieh and her father Avrum (Andrew Polk) attempt to make nice as Simon (Alok Tewari) plays a bit of his unfinished clarinet concerto which in turn segues into “Summertime” that they all know and understand – breaking the ice.  The clarinet will also soothe their crying baby when nothing else will.

At the roller skating disco we meet the ultra-shy Papi (Etai Benson) who, with the help of the Egyptian Haled, gets instructions in how to get to first base with his girl.

This fluid, bittersweet production expertly directed by David Cromer enfolds on a turntable that slowly allows us to be a part of all their melancholy lives.

The spot on scenic design by Scott Pask is enhanced by the striking and mood setting lighting design by Tyler Micoleau.   The choreography by Patrick McCollum just seems to appear it is so integrated with the characters and their stories.

This production should not be missed.  You will always regret not seeing THE BAND’S VISIT.  In fact you will want to see it again and again.  Hear it again and again.  It is quite special seeing Arabs and Jews in complete harmony making beautiful music together in this gentle, charming and thoroughly inviting musical.

Based on the 2007 film by Eran Kolirin.

At The Barrymore Theater.    With an unexpected post show concert by the band.  Just go!

90 minutes no intermission NO late seating

Photos: Matthew Murphy

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