THE EGYPTIANS HAVE ARRIVED, THEIR BAND IS BRINGING TEARS TO THE SLOW OPEN OF THE 2022 THEATRE SEASON
‘THE BAND'S VISIT’ IS FULL OF HEART, FREE OF RELIGION AND POLITICS AND WILL TOUCH YOUR SOUL
With 100% Covid rules in effect the Egyptian band visits San Francisco this winter. BroadwaySF hosts the national tour of Tony honored THE BAND’S VISIT now on stage at the Golden Gate Theatre through February 6th. THE BAND'S VISIT is a gentle, very human musical about a band of Egyptian musicians who end up stranded in a small Israeli town. It's a story about unexpected connections as the Arab musicians develop a needed friendship with distant potential enemies. Instead, this sweet quiet musical is a poem to humanity with gorgeous music and a sweet quiet story. The sight of Egyptians, dressed in their official band uniforms, surprises the locals. Yet, out of kindness, they offer the men food and shelter for the night at their homes.
THE BAND'S VISIT won 10 Tony Awards when it premiered on Broadway including Best Musical, Best Score, and Best Direction. It's a critically acclaimed show with a Grammy-winning cast album. The musical originally played a small 1000 seat house The Ethel Barrymore. The larger tour venues could have stripped this musical from its sweet pace and intimate setting but the producers proved it plays well to large touring venues.
The story is based on the 2007 Israeli film that won international honors. The musical features one of the stars of the film Award-winning Israeli actor Sasson Gabay who reprises the role of Tewfiq, the role he created in the film of THE BAND’S VISIT and for the Broadway run and now is this First National Tour. Gabay as the band conductor shows off his classic voice in his solo “Something Different” alongside Janet Dacal who plays the diner manager Dina.
The musical opens as the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra arrives at an Israeli bus depo. They’ve been invited to perform at the local Cultural Center in a small town called Petah Tikva, they call it Bet Hatikva, and end up on the wrong bus. The quiet comic confusion about two similar towns is one of subtext themes and is important to the friendships that develop. The townsfolk reveal their true selves as they care for their new guests. Eventually the locals open their homes for the night to the stranded musicians. Dina and her friends open with “Welcome to Nowhere,” a perfect banner song featuring the entire cast. This song includes a nine piece orchestra - and the onstage band or the players bring their music for the live scene changes on the revolving set designed by Scott Pask’. They also appear in some of the live songs on stage and of course the Band ends the story in a brilliant closing stage concert.
The timeline is one evening in the town expressed in the song “It is What It Is” featuring Decal and the cast. The band from Egypt shares the fact in the song “Omar Sharif,” sharing memories of the glamorous old Egyptian films that filled their imaginations as kids. It’s a touching number, and the band's new friendship with the folks of the town is genuine. Band member Haled, played by Joe Joseph is treated to a tour of the small town by Tewfiq. Simple kindness and stories of love and emotion are brilliant. Shy Papi, played by the terrific Coby Getzug, is invited on a blind date with a local girl. In another local home, Simon played by James Rana the clarinetist, visits with Itzik played by Clay Singer, and wife, Iris, Kendal Hartse, and his father-in-law David Studwell. The Egyptians and Israelis dramatically change each other's lives, with wisdom, and heart.
Itamar Moses's book, based on Eran Kolirin's original screenplay, mixes these enduring characters in sweet encounters that will bring a tear to your eye. Using music, the townspeople share their memories and explore their two cultures. The final theme proves that languages have the same soul. One father says the usual Israeli farewell "Shalom aleichem" to another as he departs, and responds, "Alaikum salaam." They have both said "Peace be upon you" in their language. It represents a bond that could drown hatred in a better world.
Music by David Yazbek with his exciting Middle East vibes, using instruments the oud and a darbuka, to create a warm, Egyptian score. The onstage band and actors perform much of the score, it adds visceral touch. Yazbek also paid homage to other musicals by adding "The Girl From Ipanema" into "Beat Of Her Heart." It was all very subtle. Gabay in the role of the conductor, he played on Broadway after replacing Tony winner Tony Shalhoub, but he originated in the original film. Gabay has few words, but gives Tewfiq due class.
THE BAND'S VISIT gives audiences a show of love and community. This company along with others has sat in the wings as Covid kept the ghost light center stage. THE BAND arrived in the Bay Area as most local stages had to close down as 2022 rolled in. It is all about this talented company staying healthy and the Golden Gate doors will remain open. As in the sister musical COME FROM AWAY treated both their guests as friends and not invaders. The true heart is the humanity and love, not hate. This musical is a MUST SEE and seats are easy to get since audiences have been light fearing crowds. But BroadwaySF has the best Covid restrictions including as of Feb 1, proof of a booster vaccine is needed to enter.
THE BAND’S VISIT
Directed by David Cromer,
Music Supervision, Andra Grody and
Music and Lyrics by David Yazbeck, book by Itamar Moses
Choreography, Patrick McCollum
and SASSON GAHAY
Must Close February 6th
GOLDEN GATE THEATRE
1 Taylor St., San Francisco
100 Minutes NO intermission
Tickets available at broadwaysf.com
PHOTOS BY EVAN ZIMMERMAN, AND MURPHYMADE
IN-PERSON 40.00 RUSH TICKETS
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