Review: Tony-winning 'The Band's Visit' Only Fitfully Entertaining

by Kevin Taft

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday December 7, 2021

A promotional photo for "The Band's Visit"
A promotional photo for "The Band's Visit"  

Based on the 2007 film of the same name, the multiple Tony-award winning musical "The Band's Visit" arrives in Los Angeles for a month-long engagement.
 
A slight story, the plot centers on a small orchestra from the Egyptian Police Force that have been asked to play at an Arab arts center. But after some mispronunciation regarding bus tickets to their expected location, the crew find themselves in the completely wrong town. The leader of the group, Colonel Tewfiq Zakaria (Sasson Gabay), tries to assess their situation, only to find they are stuck — for at least a day — until they can find a way to the town they originally intended on going to: Petah Tikvah.
 
The town they ended up in — Bet Hatikava — is a quiet one with a few apartments, a café, and a "night club," and is populated by an array of quirky characters that all long for something more. There's Dina (Janet Dacal), the tough and sexy café owner; shy Papi (Coby Getzug); and the married Itzig (Clay Singer), who suffers from a lack of ambition.
 
The band members all stay with different members of the small community, with clarinet player Simon (James Rana) staying with Itzig and his wife (Kendall Hartse). He is a widower who rarely speaks about what happened to his wife and son. Meanwhile, playboy Haled (Joe Joseph) goes out with the younger guys, and ends up trying to get Papi to gain some confidence, while Tewfiq heads out to dinner with Dina, where the two get to know each other's backgrounds and their pasts.
 
The crux of the musical, with music and lyrics by David Yazbek and book by Itmar Moses, is how a small group of outsiders not only affect a tiny community of lost souls, but how those lost souls affect them. It has a "Come from Away" feel to it, though it's not quite as impactful.
 
Although it won a Tony Award for Best Musical, Book, and Score, "The Band's Visit" is only fitfully entertaining. But it's funnier than expected and has a few catchy tunes. The issue for this reviewer is that it didn't seem to go anywhere profound, and felt like it ended too abruptly. There seemed to be a few loose ends or story threads that got resolved too easily. (It's apparently based on a true story.)
 
Performances are good all-around with Joseph, Rana, Gabay, and Dacal all shining in their roles. Even so, there isn't a bad actor in the bunch, and the audience seemed to enjoy the shenanigans that ensued. Thankfully, it is a short one act musical that doesn't overstay its welcome, even when it could have fleshed out some of the minor stories. Regardless, it was a charming story with surprisingly upbeat tunes and a terrific ensemble.
 
"The Band's Visit" might not have been earth-shattering, but it was definitely a welcome social call.


"The Band's Visit" plays the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles through Dec. 19th. For more information and tickets visit www.broadwayinhollywood.com

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.