David Mirvish/The Band’s Visit, music and lyrics by David D, book by Itamar Moses, directed by David Cromer, Ed Mirvish Theatre, Sept. 1 to Oct. 1. Tickets available at mirvish.com.
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The Band’s Visit is a sweet show, if a bit on the slow side, with a fabulous Middle Eastern-themed score. The music alone is worth the visit, not to mention the incandescent performance by the great Chilina Kennedy.
The production, based on the 2007 Israeli movie of the same name, cleaned up at the 2018 Tony Awards, winning ten of its eleven nominated categories. The Band’s Visit is only one of four musicals in Broadway history to earn the “Big Six” Tonys — best musical, score, book, direction, actor, and actress, making it one of the most honoured shows ever. In other words, attention must be paid.
The premise is certainly interesting. In 1996, the seven members and their conductor of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra arrive in Israel from Egypt to help inaugurate the opening of the Arab Cultural Centre in the vibrant city of Petah Tikva. When they go to buy bus tickets at the airport, they are misunderstood and sent to Bet Hatikva, a nowhere town in the Negev desert. The burden of the plot is what happens when the band spends a day and a night with the bored citizens of Bet Hatikva.
Because there is no hotel in Bet Hatikva, the bandleader Tewfiq (Sasson Gabay) and musician Haled (Joe Joseph) are boarded with restaurant owner Dina (Kennedy). Dina’s worker Itzik (Pomme Koch) puts up Camal (Ronnie Malley) and Simon (James Rana) much to the delight of his father-in-law Avrum (David Studwell) and the dismay of his wife Iris (Kendal Hartse).