Broadway in Cincinnati’s “The Band’s Visit” Full of Heart

“The Band’s Visit” is thought-provoking, sweet, and filled with heart

Review by Liz Eichler

 “The Band’s Visit” is making a brief stop in Cincinnati – just through July 24th as part of the Broadway in Cincinnati series at the Aronoff Center, and it is definitely worth a visit. 

This sweet, short slice-of-life musical which won Best Book, Best Score, and Best Musical at the 2018 Tony’s. “The Band’s Visit” tells the story of the Alexandria (Egypt) Ceremonial Police Orchestra who, on their journey to play at the Arab Cultural Center in the city of “Petah Tikvah,” accidentally purchase tickets to the similarly pronounced “Bet Hativka,” a small Israeli town where nothing ever really happens, or so the residents say. Upon arrival in Bet Hativka, cafe owner Dina informs them of their mistake. Out of kindness or curiosity she offers to find places to put up the band until the next bus arrives in the morning. Within the span of a few evening and overnight hours the audience sees snippets of how the locals and band members interact and empathize with the universality of life’s circumstances. Music unites them.  Music and lyrics by David Yazbek and book by Itamar Moses, “The Band’s Visit” is a quiet, heartfelt tribute to humanity.

Director David Cromer sets the pace, showing that most characters are having internal conflicts, not necessarily needing an antagonist. The show brilliantly uses a turntable, bringing the characters together and then forcing them apart. The set (Scott Pask, Set Designer) is appropriately bland, showing a bleached desert town, as are Sarah Laux’s costume designs, each getting pops of color from the pastel blue band uniforms and the brighter colors of youth. Tyler Micoleau (Lighting Designer)  provides focus and a highly colorful disco ball in the vibrant roller rink scene. 

The first song “Waiting” with the residents of Bet Hatikva captures their ennui, but it is one of the last songs that is a cry in the desert asking “are you there” in “Answer Me” which encapsulates why these residents welcome the the unexpected guests. The scenes with Telephone Guy (Joshua Grosso) are familiar, yet both hopeful and sad.The Middle Eastern music throughout, played by the “band” on stage, is often plaintive and longing, but pulls out the stops  in the post curtain call number (the audience wanted more).

Janet Dacal as cafe owner Dina, carries the show in wit and strength.  She sets the action in motion and we follow her choices, as she focuses on the band leader Tewfiq (Sasson Gabay) versus the smooth and attractive Haled (Ali Louis Bourzgui). Itzik (Clay Singer) as a local new father has a wonderful moment in “Itzik’s Lullaby.” 

The show is surprisingly fast, ninety minutes, no intermission.  “The Band’s Visit” is thought-provoking, sweet, and filled with heart, showing that no matter our differences, we have many similarities–a worthwhile theme for 2022.  “The Band’s Visit” is playing now through July 24th at the Aronoff.  Tickets can be purchased here. Originally opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in NYC which holds ⅓ of the capacity of Aronoff, a few parts are lost in our cavernous space, but enough heart gets through in this intimate musical that it is definitely worth the visit. 

RUSH JUST ANNOUNCED: Students, seniors, members of the military, teachers, and first responders with valid IDs can purchase up to two (2) tickets for all performances of The Band’s Visit running now through July 24 at 50% off current pricing. Available in-person while supplies last at the Aronoff Ticket Office only, 2 hours prior to the performance.

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