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The Band's Visit is Simply Stunning

“Once not long ago,

A group of musicians came to Israel from Egypt.

You probably didn’t hear about it.

It wasn’t very important.”

Company of The Band's Visit National Tour. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

On September 17th, The Band’s Visit began performances at Toronto’s Ed Mirvish Theatre. The musical, which has been touring since June of this year, is based on the 2007 Israeli film of the same name by Eran Kolirin. The national tour stars Sasson Gabay, who reprises the role he originated in the film, as well as Canada’s Chilina Kennedy. The Band’s Visit was adapted for stage by Itamar Moses and includes a stunning score by David Yazbek.This tour is following a successful Broadway run, the original production having won 10 Tony Awards including Best Musical.

Set in Israel during the late 1990’s, The Band’s Visit has a very simple plot. The Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra have travelled to Israel from Egypt to perform at an event in Petah Tikvah. Due to a miscommunication, the group of musicians end up in the isolated desert town of Bet Hatikva. The next bus does not come until the next day, and as the small town has no hotels, the locals take in the musicians for the night.

Itamar Moses and David Yazbek have created something incredibly special in adapting The Band’s Visit for the stage. The story itself may be simple, but the show manages to encompass the human experience, showcasing the complex emotions of loneliness and longing. Set in a time and place where all the characters are speaking English (their second language) to communicate with each other, The Band’s Visit demonstrates the almost magical ability music has to connect us all. Both the story and the music are stunning in their simplicity, allowing the audience a glimpse into something uniquely human. The set is beautiful, complete with a revolving stage and masterful use of lighting design which easily transports theatre goers to another time and place.

The Band’s Visit is a rare piece of musical theatre in the sense that more is communicated in the silences than in anything sung or spoken, which requires the actors creating the piece to showcase their physicality as well as their ability to listen.

Leading the company is Sasson Gabay as Tewfiq, playing the role he originated in the 2007 film. Gabay’s presence is strong and his silences are powerful; it’s almost as though his ability to listen makes his spoken lines even more meaningful.

Canada’s Chilina Kennedy is radiant in the role of Dina, transforming into the character with a masterful sense of physicality. Every single movement Kennedy makes is rooted deeply within her character and is incredibly profound. Kennedy is a natural storyteller, and her performance of Omar Sharif is show stopping.

The Band’s Visit is an ensemble piece, and the group of actors and musicians onstage blend together seamlessly. The musical is so deeply rooted in the realities of daily life, that at times, it feels like a documentary, and each cast member excels in presenting characters that appear wonderfully human. There is no shortage of talent in the amazing cast, but some of the standouts include Joe Joseph’s swoon-worthy vocals as Haled, and Adam Gabay’s comical performance as Papi. The onstage musicians must be recognized as quadruple threats, their presence onstage is a constant reminder of the almost magical ability music has to connect us all. The entire company bands together to provide a truly unique, encompassing, and welcoming theatre experience.

The Band’s Visit is unlike anything I have ever seen before; which is why I would call it a must-see for theatre lovers.

Art itself imitates life, but very rarely does musical theatre capture daily life the way this production does. The Band’s Visit is deeply human, exploring the universal longing for connection, and the loneliness that comes from waiting for something to happen.

So many musicals focus on spectacle, including dazzling special effects, dramatic plotlines, and gigantic belted notes. The Band’s Visit was refreshing in its simplicity, and that’s what makes it absolutely stunning.

This stunning production finished its run at The Ed Mirvish Theatre on October 20th, however you can still catch The Band’s Visit in a city near you!

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