Music dissolves cultural differences

‘The Band’s Visit’

 

Company of The Bands Visit at Cadillac Palace Theatre. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)
Company of The Bands Visit at Cadillac Palace Theatre. (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

4 stars

The curtain at the Cadillac Palace Theatre reads “Turn off your cell phone” in English and in Arabic and in Hebrew.

And so begins “The Band’s Visit,” the multi-Tony Award winning musical that stunned Broadway and premiered off-Broadway in 2016.

Based on an Israeli film in 2007, the show quietly but beautifully depicts what happens when the eight-man Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra arrives in Israel from Egypt then takes a bus from the airport to a town whose name sounds similar to Petah Tikva, where they are supposed to be playing a concert, but turns out to be Beit Hatikva, small, fictional, somewhat desolate place in the Negev Desert.

Having recently seen “Come From Away” that showed how the small town of Gander, Newfoundland, took care of hundreds of passengers from different countries stranded by the closing of U.S. airspace on 9-11, I expected to see more cultural differences such as food, show up during the band’s overnight stay. (They were able to take another bus out to their destination the next day.)

But this show,  a comedy-drama with music and lyrics by David Yazbek and book by Itamar Moses  is more how music is an international language that speaks to many different situations from soothing a crying baby to bringing lonely people together.

The band is led by Tewfiq, interpreted with careful reserve that later dissolves by Sasson Gabay, a leading Israeli actor who starred in the movie. Opposite him is Dina, a lovely café owner who feels stranded in Beit Hatikva, played with superb emotional vibes by Chilina Kennedy who starred as Carol King in “Beautiful.,” on Broadway.

The rest of the cast is also terrific. It is easy to fall in love with the band members as they skillfully play their instruments. But a special shout-out has to go to Joe Joseph who as Haled, is the band member who brings people together often asking if they like the song, “My Funny Valentine.”

DETAILS: “The Band’s Visit” is presented by Broadway in Chicago at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., Chicago, through Sept. 15, 2019. Running time: 90 minutes. For tickets and other information visit Broadway in Chicago.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

 

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