The Band’s Visit• March 15, 2022• Eccles Theater
Reviewed by Kevin Rolfe
The Band’s Visit is a winner of 10 Tony Awards. Ten! I remember watching the Tony Awards and hoping I would get to see the tour when it came to Utah. But like so many tours and productions, The Band’s Visit’s visit was delayed due to the pandemic. But the time finally came when I was inside the beautiful Eccles Theater in downtown Salt Lake City to see this award-winning show. From the press release…
THE BAND’S VISIT tells a joyful, offbeat story of a band of musicians who arrive in a town way off the beaten path. Under the spell of the desert sky, with beautiful music perfuming the air, the band brings the town to life in unexpected ways. With a Tony- and Grammy-winning score that seduces your soul and sweeps you off your feet, performed by thrillingly talented onstage musicians, THE BAND’S VISIT rejoices in the way music makes us laugh, makes us cry, and ultimately, brings us together.
I did not know much about The Band’s Visit before the show. I try not to listen to the music of musicals before I see the show live, and again, due to the pandemic, I went quite a long time not listening to this music. I’m not sure if this policy is the best idea when you live outside of New York City. I was told by a friend that it was different, but give it a chance and I’d love it. That advice was very helpful because this musical is totally different than any I had seen.
Just before the lights went down and the show began, I saw a friend, and they told me that the role of Tewfiq, the band leader, would be played by Sasson Gabay. I embarrassingly said, “Who’s Sasson Gabay?”. As the lights dimmed, they said, “He played the part in the original movie!”. It’s not every day you get to see someone who played the part in the film, portray the role on stage. I knew what an honor it was. Yul Brener comes to mind in The King and I, but other than that, who has played the part on stage and in the film. It’s a short list. I know that much.
You could almost call this a play with music. It felt more like a straight play to me than a musical. But the music is such an important factor in the production that it would be foolish to not call it a musical. The show begins with the Egyptian band arriving in Isreal and due to the language barrier, accidentally booking their travel to the wrong town. A town that doesn’t normally have bands stop through. From there a few different storylines ensue. Stories that I don’t want to taint by spoiling them in this review.
This show takes its time. There is a lot of silence, characters thinking, or awkwardly not speaking. It makes you think. You can feel what the character is feeling. It’s not your typical musical. That’s what makes it so great. I can see how some people might not be cut out for this kind of show. I knew people who were attending later in the week and without spoiling anything I just told them the tempo is slower than other musicals. Just don’t be in a rush. Know it’s slow and enjoy it. That’s the same advice I give to anyone going. If you focus too much on the pacing, you’ll miss out on excellent acting and beautiful music. The pacing is what makes this show so brilliant.
One of my favorite songs in the show is “Omar Sharif”, sung by the character Dina and played by Janet Dacal. Its deep and haunting melody stuck with me for a while. It’s a production unlike any other. It’s only one act. So if you start to wonder why Act 1 is so long, now you know. It’s over before you know it if you know there is only one act. I wonder how often this musical will tour. I feel like it might be a while before it comes to Utah again. I cant recommend seeing The Band’s Visit enough.