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"The Band's Visit", A New Musical, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre

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The Band’s Visit
A New Musical

Music and Lyrics by David Yazbek
Book by Itamar Moses
Based on the screenplay by Eran Kolirin

Directed by David Cromer

At the
Ethel Barrymore Theatre
243 West 47th Street

Katrina Lenk, Tony Shalhoub
John Cariani, Ari’el Stachel
George Abud, Etai Benson, Adam Kantor, Andrew Polk
Bill Army, Rachel Prather, Jonathan Raviv
Sharone Sayegh, Kristen Sieh, Alok Tewari

Scenic Design: Scott Pask
Costume Design: Sarah Laux
Lighting Design: Tyler Micoleau
Sound Design: Kai Harada
Projection Design: Maya Ciarrocchi
Hair & Wig Designer: Charles G. LaPointe
Casting: Tara Rubin Casting
Dialect Coach: Molina R’Miki & Zohar Tirosh-Polk
Orchestrations: Jamshied Sharifi
Music Supervisors: Andrea Grody & Dean Sharenow
Music Coordinator: Dean Sharenow
Music Direction, Additional Arrangements: Andrea Grody
Choreography: Patrick McCollum
Advertising & Marketing: AKA
General Management: Foresight Theatrical
Company Manager: Tracy Geltman
Production Stage Manager: Richard Hodge
Production Management: Juniper Street Productions
Press Representative: Polk & Co.

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 16, 2017

I and my guest, an orchestral and solo pianist, adored David Yazbek and Itamar Moses’ new musical, The Band’s Visit. I had missed it, Off-Broadway, at Atlantic Theater Company, and remained immersed tonight, psychically and musically, long after the curtain. Tony Shalhoub, always favorably reviewed on these pages, and Katrina Lenk, an exquisite actress and singer, led a remarkable cast in this eloquent, enticing, elevating production. The score has the exoticism of Middle Eastern tonality, with the band playing keyboards, basses, darbouka, riq, drums, Arabic percussion, clarinet, saxophone, flute, oud, guitar, and cello, actually conducted by Andrea Grody. I list the band early on this page to emphasize its critical impact on the total aesthetic experience. This is a mystical, ethereal, perfumy show, with a serious, political, international message. Conflicting cultures, when sharing music, cuisine, a drink, and conversation, can actually bond in deeply meaningful ways.

An Egyptian band, the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra, led by Mr. Shalhoub as Tewfiq, has traveled by bus in 1996, within Israel, to Bet Hatikva, looking for the Arabic Cultural Center. But, their concert is actually booked in Petah Tikva, which the bus terminal attendant had not understood, resulting in frantic confusion. As it’s too late to travel until morning, the band arrives at a local café, run by Dina (Ms. Lenk). Just as in the 2007 original film, on which the stage adaptation was created, the characters speak in their best non-native English. The band is invited to stay at the café for the night, and two café workers, Itzik (John Cariani) and Papi (Etai Benson) befriend the musicians. One fantastic scene features Papi on a roller skating date with a girl he adores. Papi is helped in sealing this romance by his new friend, Haled (Ari’el Stachel), from the band.

Dina, lonely and no longer married, is immediately drawn to Tewfiq, the sensitive, intelligent band conductor. The feeling is mutual, but Dina and Tewfiq know this is but one enchanted evening. Dina’s desire is visually and vocally transparent, and observing Mr. Shalhoub’s Tewfiq, as he exerts self-restraint in posture and expression, is akin to attending a master class. Dina serenades Tewfiq at a café table, earthily singing “Omar Sharif” with passion and persuasion, as he silently gazes and smiles. Mr. Yazbek’s music and lyrics are mesmerizing, yet understated. In the final scene, having arrived at their intended destination, Petah Tikva, the band serenades the audience in blazing, billowy musicality. Each character, although the eight-man band wears soft blue uniforms and military hats, is differentiated for personality and manner. Yet, throughout, Mr. Shalhoub and Ms. Lenk seize the stage and rivet the eye. Additional memorable songs (they were all enthralling) were Dina’s “It Is What It Is”, the band’s “Haj-Butrus”, Dina and Tewfiq’s “Something Different”, and Telephone Guy’s “Answer Me”. That final song refers to a man who never leaves the town’s only phone booth, waiting endlessly for his girlfriend’s call. The scene was innocently romantic, in keeping with the show’s thread of unrequited romance. I will mention, however, that one band member found no problem in unleashing his desire, causing no jealousy or recrimination, as Itamar Moses’ characters are imbued with mutual respect and generosity of spirit.

David Cromer’s directing is outstanding on every level, in the most intricately nuanced acting. Notably, when Mr. Shalhoub gazes in silence at Dina, daring to long, but only with his eyes, his posture is straight in his chair. Dina raises an arm, reaching for the stars. And, in expansive scenes, like the skating rink, the cast is in full, pulsating, Broadway mode. Scott Pask’s scenic design is uncluttered but iconic to the moment, indoors and out. Sarah Laux’s costumes include Dina’s lovely, long sleeveless dress, those powder blue uniforms, and the Israelis’ casual, yet stylish attire. Tyler Micoleau’s lighting and Kai Harada’s sound meshed for vibrancy and luminosity. I would commend the dialect coaches, as well, for the crafted Israeli and Egyptian accents and pronunciations. Kudos to Orin Wolf, lead Producer, Atlantic Theater Company, and the creators, cast, and staff of this extraordinary musical.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at