By Kevin M. Thomas, @ReelKev
When I am reviewing a show, I try to go in blindly. I don’t want to know others’ opinions and even sometimes a lot about the story or cast.
It was hard to attend “The Band’s Visit” without having a bit of knowledge. Not only did I miss opening night on Broadway, but I was already aware of all of the awards and praise it received Off-Broadway not to mention the 46 awards the film won 10 years ago, including a couple from the Cannes Film Festival.
Quite an impressive pedigree from a show that relies on songs, acting and story and less on over-the-top theatricals, which has propelled many a show to find an audience.
“The Band” doesn’t need to oversell us. The show and talent itself are enough to find and retain an audience.
First, there’s that incredibly simple story of humanity and friendship that comes from the source material, the non-musical film written by Eran Kolirin.
His beautiful story about an Egyptian band who are invited to play an Arab Cultural Center in Israel and end up in the wrong town is sweet and tender and truly an experience we all can relate to.
This story of friendships that bloom by a mix-up due to language barriers is embraced in the stage musical with a cast of amazingly gifted singers and actors, led by Tony Shalhoub, who brings yet another flawless accent to the roles he’s played.
Going in, Shalhoub might be the only name one knows. But leaving the show, there will be names we will never forget.
Katrina Lenk as one of the townsfolks who welcomes the band has great delivery with her comedic lines and she also has the voice of an angel. She sings like she means it and she seems to mean what she sings. Her song “Welcome to Nowhere” showcases both her voice and comedic genius.
Ari’el Stachel has a voice that’s as sexy and smooth as his appearance. His character, a fan of Chet Baker, brings the show a true connection to jazz and transforms it beyond being a Broadway musical, but one rooted in jazz history. Stachel carries the torch for jazz in the show and he carries it high and elevates every wonderful song he does to memorable and glorious heights.
Everyone in the show is great. But there’s still one more moment that we sit and wait for – and that is with the young man waiting by the phone. Won’t say what he’s waiting for but we wait alongside actor Adam Kantor and we are well rewarded with a beautiful song and performance that may be Kantor’s only moment to stand out, but that performance is remembered long after leaving the theatre.
Itamar Moses has done a brilliant writing job bringing the movie to the stage. He not only retained the pace and feel of the film but keeps it simple and on point and is able to tell the same story with songs in about 90 minutes.
David Cromer has also done a great directing job, having done the show Off-Broadway. While I didn’t see that production, it seems he has opened up to the show to utilizes the larger stage of a Broadway production while still making it feel intimate.
Then there’s the music and lyrics of David Yazbek, whom I’ve seen most of his Broadway shows to great delight. But this one really blows you away. Some of the songs can be enjoyed as modern jazz classics and not requiring you to even know they’re from a show. Others tell you a great story and allow you to be able to see a show in your head.
“The Band’s Visit” is definitely worth a visit. Let’s hope the accolades and recognition continue for a long time to come.
Visit www.thebandsvisitmusical.com for tickets and more details.