THEATER | DANCE | CLASSICAL MUSIC | OPERA | COMEDY

NORTH TEXAS PERFORMING ARTS NEWS

REVIEWS

The company of&nbsp;<em>The Band\'s Visit</em>

Review: The Band's Visit | Dallas Summer Musicals | Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House


Seeing the Other Side

At the Winspear Opera House, the tour of the Tony-winning The Band's Visit retains its intimacy in a gorgeously realized production.



published Saturday, February 8, 2020

Photo: Evan Zimmerman/MurphyMade
Janet Dacal and Sasson Gabay in The Band's Visit

 

Dallas- A beautiful intimacy — even in the 2,200-seat Winspear Opera House — patiently and subtly reveals itself in The Band’s Visit, a 2016 off-Broadway hit that landed on Broadway to much acclaim in 2017, now on a national tour stopping in Dallas for a three-week run co-presented by Dallas Summer Musicals and AT&T Performing Arts Center. It’s the first shared production by Dallas' two touring presenters, with all performances at the Winspear; The Band’s Visit would be swallowed up in the 3,400-seat Music Hall at Fair Park.

Lyricist-composer David Yazbek and author Itamar Moses based The Band’s Visit (very faithfully) on Eran Kolirin’s 2007 film of the same name; the unlikely plotline of a small Egyptian orchestra trapped in an isolated Israeli settlement went on to win a record-tying six major Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

The Band’s Visit neatly relies on an old trick of western and sci-fi plots, from The Virginian to Star Trek: the creation of an isolated community in which the arrival of outsiders cracks open the world of existing inhabitants. In this case, the seven-member “Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra” arrives at the bus station in Tel Aviv for a performance at the Arab Cultural Center in the bustling suburb of Peta Tikvah; a member of the orchestra, the young, compulsively flirtatious and perpetually horny Haled (played with disarming naiveté and charm by Joe Joseph), assigned to buy tickets for a transfer to Peta Tikvah (a real place on the map), mistakenly buys tickets for the desert town of Bet Hatikva (a fictional place invented for the movie).

The first musical number, “Waiting,” introduces the residents of Bet Hatikva, conveying that sense of boredom and longing common to all isolated outposts — from Siberia to the American heartland — but with a Middle Eastern flavor that successfully pervades composer Yazbek’s entire score, via traditional harmonic and melodic patterns as well as Arabic percussion and oud. Thus begins a musical and dramatic verismo journey in which very ordinary people demonstrate the magic of their humanity.

Photo: Matthew Murphy
Mike Cefalo in The Band\'s Visit

The tense heart of the drama emerges from the relationship of café owner Dina, played with fiery angst and sung with a dusky contralto by Janet Dacal, and Tewfiq, the iron-willed autocrat and conductor of the band, played by Iraq-born Israeli Sasson Gabay, who originated the role in the 2007 movie version (Katrina Lenk and Tony Shalhoub originated the roles in the musical; both won Tony Awards). Dina immediately begins to show her generous inclinations by providing the stranded musicians with food and lodging (and forcing two of her employees to likewise help house the band); Tewfiq begins to show cracks in his cold façade when he has to ask for food.

Two band members end up in the home of Itzik, where Itzik (Pomme Koch) and band member Simon (James Rana) proceed to shed revelations and frustrations in the midst of the geo-political (Israeli-Arab) and the personal tensions (Itziz is under-employed and his wife is embittered by the burden of child-rearing and house-keeping).

Haled, meanwhile, ends up as the fifth wheel on a double-date to a disco-skating rink with the Israeli Papi (Adam Gabay); Haled coaches Papi in the ways of love and seduction in the funniest scene of the show, but reveals that his own sexual adventurousness and prolificity is a reaction to his anticipated future arranged marriage.

All the while, Dina has set herself the challenge of seducing Tewfiq; their adventures include her darkly humorous and vicious slicing of a watermelon as well as an angry encounter in a restaurant with her married fuckbuddy. Dina’s pursuit and attempted seduction of Tewfiq takes an unexpected turn in the end, involving Tewfiq’s reconciliation with his past and a little melting of his icy façade. In short, they will keep on being who they are, but with a new understanding of what that means.

Some beautiful songs stand out in Yazbek’s unique and skillfully wrought score, including Dina’s “Omar Sharif,” in which she recalls watching Egyptian movies as a young Israeli girl; Papi’s enunciation of his fear of romance in “Papi Hears the Ocean”; and Itzik’s gently desperate reaffirmation of self in the midst of a disappointing life in “Itzik’s Lullaby.”

Even during the course of all of this, an otherwise unidentified “Telephone Guy” (Mike Cefalo) waits patiently at an outdoor public phone for his girlfriend to call him (as he has apparently done for several weeks), epitomizing the frustrations of the entire cast. But it’s the Telephone Guy’s song, “Answer Me,” that blossoms into a tear-inducing ensemble finale (have a hankie on hand), followed by an upbeat musical epilogue.

Rick Bertone guides the small orchestra (along with onstage instrumentals) neatly through this one-of-a-kind score. Scott Pask’s quasi-realist scenery and Sarah Laux’s everyday working-class costumes handily create the heat and isolation of a modern desert settlement, while director David Cromer and choreographer Patrick McCollum keep the patiently unwinding plot of this one-act piece lively and fascinating. The Band’s Visit won its acclaim by breaking a few rules, and the result is an intriguing and unusually meaningful musical, surely destined to become a classic of the lyric stage.

 

» The three-week run of The Band’s Visit is divided into two weeks for Dallas Summer Musicals (through Feb. 16; click here for tickets), and one week for AT&T Performing Arts Center (Feb. 18-23; click here for tickets). Thanks For Reading





View the Article Slideshow
Click or Swipe to close
Seeing the Other Side
At the Winspear Opera House, the tour of the Tony-winning The Band's Visit retains its intimacy in a gorgeously realized production.
by Wayne Lee Gay

Share this article on Facebook
Tweet this article
Share this article on Google+
Share this article via email
Click or Swipe to close
reviews
views on theater, dance, classical music, opera and comedy performances
news & notes
reports from the local performing arts scene
features & interviews
who and what are moving and shaking in the performing arts scene
season announcements
keep up with the arts groups' upcoming seasons
audiocasts
listen to interviews with people in the local performing arts scene
media reviews
reviews and stories on performing arts-related film, TV, recordings and books
arts organizations
learn more about the local producing and presenting arts groups
performance venues
learn more about the theaters and spaces where the arts happen
contests
keep up with fabulous ticket giveaways and other promotions
crowdfunding
connect to local arts crowdfunding campaigns
studio
post or view auditions and performing arts-related classes, services, jobs and more
about us
info on TheaterJones, our staff, what we do and how to contact us
Click or Swipe to close
First Name:
Last Name:
Date of Birth:
ZIP Code:
Your Email Address:
Click or Swipe to close
Join TheaterJones Around the Web



Follow Us on Twitter

Subscribe to our Youtube Channel

Click or Swipe to close
Search the TheaterJones Archives
Use any or all of the options below to search through all of reviews, interviews, features and special sections. If you are looking for a an event, use the calendar section of this website. This search will not search through the calendar.
Article Title Search:


Description Search:
TheaterJones Contributor:


TheaterJones Section:


Category:
Showing on or after:      Showing on or before:  
Search
Click or Swipe to close
We welcome your comments

I am discussing:  



Your Name:
Your Email Adress:


please enter the text below and then click or tap SUBMIT :
Submit