I saw *The Band's Visit* on Broadway on 12/7/17. It's a musical based on the 2007 film, about the Egyptian Police Band of Alexandria traveling to a city in Israel to play at the opening of an Arab cultural center. They buy tickets to the wrong town and end up more or less stranded in the desert. They're welcomed (with some degree of skepticism) by the local villagers and (of course) the story ends with both sides having a greater understanding and appreciation of each other. It's a small story but it has a powerful message. It's a show that renews your hope in humanity.
The music and lyrics are by David Yazbeck, the book is by Itamar Moses. It's expertly constructed - - the more I see musicals and read about musicals, the more I realize what a tricky genre it is. The transition from dialogue to song is not so easy, and the overall arc of a show has to work. *The Band's Visit* handles this beautifully, going from dialogue to song, from instrumental interlude to scene, from ordinary life to intense drama to goofiness. Everything was perfectly measured, nothing ever stuck out or drew too much focus.
The conductor of the orchestra, the male lead, was played by Tony Shaloub. It's basically an acting role, we never actually see him conduct, and he only sings one song, very briefly. His performance was sweet, just the right balance of reticence and warmth. Katrina Lenk was the female lead, the owner of a local cafe who takes in the Shaloub character and one of the musicians in the band. I had seen her in *Indecent,* she's a wonderful performer. Her character does a similar dance as Shaloub's character, but she reaches out to him a little more. It's touching.
The highlight of the show was the music. The eight members of the band actually play the instruments, and there are many instrumental interludes. And as what felt like a bonus feature, they played a full number, instrumental only, at the very end of the show, after the bows. I was in tears, the music was so beautiful and it was such a treat, hearing them really unleashed like that.
I was so thrilled by the music in the show that I posted on Facebook, asking for suggestions of Middle Eastern music with a low down funky beat. I got quite a few fantastic suggestions, I've posted a few treasures below. I would love to get more suggestions! Please post a comment or write me an email.