“The Band’s Visit,” one of the most Tony Award-winning musicals in history, is making a brief visit to Washington, D.C. through August 4, 2019 at the Kennedy Center. While the run is short, the excursion is full of promise and hope.
Based on the 2007 film by the same name directed by Israeli filmmaker Eran Kolirin, this small gem of a play tells the story of the Alexandria Police Force Band, that is, Alexandria, Egypt, that takes a wrong turn at the Israeli border. The rest is pure pleasure, as the band finds a new home just for one night, among the residents of a small desert town whose name is strikingly similar to the name of their intended destination.
Award-winning Israeli film actor Sasson Gabay reprises the role of Tewfiq, the director of the band. Gabay created the role in the film, portraying the staid conductor whose life is full of remorse and regrets. He most recently played in the Broadway version.
Joining the cast as the co-star, Dina, is critically acclaimed actress Chilina Kennedy, who most recently starred in “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.” The Broadway role won a Tony Award for the original star Katrina Lenk in 2018.
Dina and Tewfiq form a bond, albeit short, sharing their life stories while the other cast members chime in with their stories of love and loss, struggling to make a living in a remote town, and longing for another type of life. But the root of the story is one of tolerance of strangers, and the commonalities that exist between all humans.
“The Band’s Visit,” truly transports the audience to that small town in Israel, supported by a live Egyptian band that accompanies most of the scenes and songs, in which every cast member gets a turn at belting out, accompanied also by a live orchestra in the pit.
Rounding out the small cast are Jennifer Apple as Anna, Mike Cefalo as Telephone Guy, Adam Gabay as Papi, Marc Ginsburg as Sammy, Kendal Hartse as Iris, Joe Josephas as Haled, Sara Kapner as Julia, Pomme Koch as Itzik, Ronnie Malley as Camal, James Rana as Simon, Or Schraiber as Zelger, and David Studwell as Avrum, along with Danny Burgos, Loren Lester, Nick Sacks, Hannah Shankman and Bligh Voth.
The play opened on Broadway in 2017 at Ethel Barrymore Theatre featuring music and lyrics by Tony and Drama Desk Award winner David Yazbek with the book by Tony, NY Drama Critics Circle, Lortel, and Outer Critics Circle Award winner Itamar Moses.
The sweetness of this comedy/drama comes through the songs and the humor, making us realize that humanity is the most important ingredient in any relationship, and that anyone can find common ground, even when history says that the two can never be at peace.
The original Broadway cast recording of “The Band’s Visit” was released by Ghostlight Records and is available both digitally and in stores. David Yazbek and Dean Sharenow served as producers for the critically acclaimed soundtrack. For more information, visit TheBandsVisitMusical.com.
“The Band’s Visit” plays at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater through August 4th. Call (202) 467-4600.