Theatre Review: The Band’s Visit brings something different

Theatre Review: The Band’s Visit brings something different
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About the Author

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins is a thespian and performer who has worked with theatre, film, and TV across Ontario. He comes from Campbellton, NB, and has lived in North Oakville over 20 years. He is a graduate of Journalism from Sheridan College. Twitter: @MrTyCollins

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Musical theatre is often associated with a style of entertainment that’s loud, bright, dynamic and exciting. But The Band’s Visit sets a musical in a small, modern desert village that wants nothing to do with that. And the result is both romantic and wildly special.

The show exudes authenticity, charm, and a grounded sense of purpose. One of the benefits from its smaller than standard production values is the rich level of heartbreaking details. The apparent emptiness onstage is infused with more intention than first meets the eye.

A 2007 Israeli film serves as the basis for the plot. The thin story finds the Royal Alexandria Police Orchestra traveling to Egypt for a show in the city of Petah Tikva. The only trouble is, after a mix-up at the bus station, they accidentally find themselves stuck in the town of Beit Hatikva.

What follows is the odd events of the band spending the night in town and the new connections they foster with the townsfolk – if only for a night. As one character jokes, “You probably didn’t hear about it. It wasn’t very important.”

With its mix of music’s healing power and stranded strangers being taken in, the show is something like a strangely sweet hybrid of both Once and Come From Away. The only other significant detail is it’s setting in a literal desert.

Chilina Kennedy and Sasson Gabay in THE BAND’S VISIT. Photo: Mirvish Productions.

Band conductor Tewfiq (Sasson Gabay) and local cafe owner Dina (Toronto favourite Chilina Kennedy) are the two characters most prominently featured. They both do a fine job anchoring the stage, though it’s hard to breakout from an ensemble with a story this fragile.

The real stars of the show are the members of both the on and offstage band. The band creates a majority of the production value for the story. What’s most interesting about the show is how the sounds they evoke become set, scoring and another character itself.

It’s a truly mesmerizing effect from a team of outstanding musicians and Jamshied Sharifi’s spellbinding orchestrations. David Yazbeck’s score, several times without lyrics or vocals at all, is a big part of what maintains the unique atmosphere in the play.

Most of the production feels more like a first class spa treatment than a musical blockbuster. The style of watching the show is very different from your standard Broadway fare. While that’s a refreshing change for some audiences, others may find themselves bored.

If you’ve seen the touted 10 Tony Award wins on the posters outside and expect lavish costumes to enormous big band numbers, you will be rightfully disappointed at the product. The Band’s Visit is among the most subtle and delicate popular musicals ever created.

For those wanting something different, or those courageous enough to visit – what’s the name of the town again? You’ll leave richer and fulfilled with magnificent beauty.

The Band’s Visit
3 1/2 out of 4 Stars

Rated 10+. 1hr 50mins. Musical Drama.
Music and Lyrics by David Yazbeck. Book by Itamar Moses.
Directed by David Cromer.

Starring Sasson Gabay and Chilina Kennedy. Also starring Joe Joseph, Pomme Koch, Kendal Hartse and Mike Cefalo.

Now Playing at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, 244 Victoria Street, Toronto, ON. Runs until Oct. 20, 2019. Tickets range $39-150. Tickets available online here or by calling 416-872-1212.

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