BWW Album Review: THE BAND'S VISIT Floats In On A Jasmine Wind

By: Amanda Prahl

Bet Hatikvah, the small town that is the setting for The Band's Visit, is utterly unremarkable. But "unremarkable" is the last adjective one would use to describe the score for this new musical, about an Egyptian police orchestra who, thanks to a linguistic mix-up, find themselves stranded overnight in a tiny Israeli town. Written by Tony nominee David Yazbek, the music ranges from haunting and ethereal to rousing and comedic, weaving together the structures and storytelling needs of musical theatre with melodies and orchestrations that are undeniably, authentically Middle Eastern. The end result is a score that takes a moment to absorb fully, but once it does, it's hard to stop thinking about.

"Waiting" and "Welcome To Nowhere" kick off the album with back-to-back odes to the monotony of life in Bet Hatikvah. "Waiting," the opening song, introduces us to the town's residents who have one thing in common: a feeling of being stuck. It also introduces us to one of Yazbek's best instruments throughout the score: the pure, powerful, haunting chorus of voices. Where "Waiting" is reflective, as the residents describe their own lives internally, "Welcome To Nowhere" is sarcastic and biting, as they introduce their stranded Egyptian guests to the town. It's filled to the brim with wry lyrics such as "Pick a sand hill of your choosing / Take some bricks that no one's using / Build some buildings, put some Jews in." Pairing these songs back-to-back gives a pretty good overview of the musical as a whole: half earnest yearning, half sharp comedy.

Later in the album, we get another set of perfectly paired songs: "Papi Hears The Ocean," sung by Etai Benson, and "Haled's Song About Love," sung by Ari'el Stachel. There may not be a funnier or better-matched buddy duo on Broadway right now than Benson and Stachel, and their pair of songs is one of the best parts of the whole album. As Papi, Benson is endearingly awkward, even as he masterfully trips through the tongue-twisting patter of his song, a sweet and hilarious explanation of Papi's inability to connect with girls. Stachel's Haled is the perfect foil, with a crooner's smooth, jazzy tones that glide through his explanation of the secrets of love: "don't break the ice, you melt the ice." Their pair of songs are a perfect storm of humor, heart, and that shared human longing to love and be loved - who could ask for anything more?

Read the full BroadwayWorld review here.

Review: ‘The Band’s Visit’ Is a Ravishing Musical That Whispers With Romance

By: Ben Brantley

Breaking news for Broadway theatergoers, even — or perhaps especially — those who thought they were past the age of infatuation: It is time to fall in love again.

One of the most ravishing musicals you will ever be seduced by opened on Thursday night at the Barrymore Theater. It is called “The Band’s Visit,”and its undeniable allure is not of the hard-charging, brightly blaring sort common to box-office extravaganzas.

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Instead, this portrait of a single night in a tiny Israeli desert town confirms a lyric that arrives, like nearly everything in this remarkable show, on a breath of reluctantly romantic hope: “Nothing is as beautiful as something you don’t expect.”

With songs by David Yazbek and a script by Itamar Moses, “The Band’s Visit” is a Broadway rarity seldom found these days outside of the canon of Stephen Sondheim: an honest-to-God musical for grown-ups. It is not a work to be punctuated with rowdy cheers and foot-stomping ovations, despite the uncanny virtuosity of Mr. Yazbek’s benchmark score.

That would stop the show, and you really don’t want that to happen. Directed by David Cromer with an inspired inventiveness that never calls attention to itself, “The Band’s Visit” flows with the grave and joyful insistence of life itself. All it asks is that you be quiet enough to hear the music in the murmurs, whispers and silences of human existence at its most mundane — and transcendent.

Read the full review at The New York Times.

The Band's Visit May Be This Year's Best Musical

By: Adam Green

As the composer and lyricist of such high-octane Broadway musicals as The Full MontyDirty Rotten Scoundrels, and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, David Yazbek has mostly been, he says, “able to rely on Faster, Louder, Funnier.” Yazbek had to abandon that credo for The Band’s Visit, the quietly ravishing new musical, written with Itamar Moses, that, after a rapturously received run at the Atlantic Theater last season (it beat Dear Evan Hansen for the New York Drama Critic Circle’s Best Musical Award), opened on Broadway last month.

Photographed by Anton Corbijn, Vogue, November 2017

Photographed by Anton Corbijn, Vogue, November 2017

Based on Eran Kolirin’s 2007 art house film about an Egyptian police band accidentally stranded for the night in the dreary Israeli desert town of Bet Hatikvah, it is unlike any musical I’ve seen—understated, with a dry wit and a yearning soul. Under the masterfully nuanced direction of David Cromer (Our Town), and featuring a perfect cast led by Tony Shalhoub as the band’s buttoned-down conductor Tewfiq and Katrina Lenk as the worldly wise Israeli cafe owner Dina, not much happens on the surface, while underneath worlds collide and hearts and minds open. “It’s about romantic love, and it’s about connecting with people from another culture and dissolving boundaries between self and other,” Yazbek says. “Ultimately it’s about longing for connection with God. And I think that’s why people are so moved by it, though we never say it.”

Read the full article at Vogue.

The Band's Visit Will Receive a Broadway Cast Album

The original Broadway cast recording for The Band's Visit will be released later this year on Ghostlight Records. An official release date for the album has yet to be announced, but fans of the new musical can sign up for updates here.

David Yazbek and Itamar Moses’ The Band's Visit is currently in previews at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, where it began performances October 7 and will officially open November 9. David Cromer directs.

Ghostlight founder Kurt Deutsch will serve as the album’s executive producer, with Yazbek and Grammy-nominated producer Dean Sharenow attached as producers.

The Band’s Visit is unlike any modern musical I have ever seen,” says Deutsch. “David Yazbek creates a sonic and distinct world though his humor, beautiful melodies and character studies that is transcendent, thought-provoking and profoundly moving. It is an honor to work with him again and preserve this beautiful show with an original Broadway cast recording.”

The Band's Visit arrived on Broadway this fall following an acclaimed and sold-out world premiere at Atlantic Theater Company last year. Though the Off-Broadway production was a hit, no cast album was recorded.

The Broadway company features much of the original cast, and is made up of Katrina Lenk, Tony Shalhoub, John Cariani, Ari'el Stachel, George Abud, Etai Benson, Adam Kantor, Andrew Polk, Bill Army, Rachel Prather, Jonathan Raviv, Sharone Sayegh, Kristen Sieh, and Alok Tewari.

Read the full Playbill article here.

The Band's Visit: When Music Crosses Borders

By: Gerard Raymond

In The Band’s Visit, a group of musicians travels from Egypt to Israel to give a concert, but arrives at the wrong destination. “You probably didn’t hear about it. It wasn’t very important,” reads a projected title at the start of the new musical now at the Ethel Barrymore Theater on Broadway. The self-deprecating disclaimer will fool no one.

Composer lyricist David Yazbek and book-writer Itamar Moses were well aware of that when they lifted the introduction from the lauded 2007 Israeli movie on which their musical is based. “We wanted to use that phrase from the movie because it sets the right tone: This is going to be a story about how the things that are ostensibly unimportant are perhaps hugely important,” says Moses.

The affecting fable about the members of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Band from Egypt who get mistakenly stranded in a small Israeli town in the middle of the Negev desert arrives on Broadway following an acclaimed run Off-Broadway. In the musical, over the course of a single night, the visitors and the locals make unexpected connections that transcend divisive politics or culture; the bond between them is their common humanity. And music.

Read the full article at Broadway Direct.

‘The Band’s Visit’ Star Katrina Lenk Is a New Kind of Broadway Leading Lady

Performers can spend the breadth of their careers waiting, hoping, to originate a role on Broadway. When “The Band’s Visit” opens at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre this fall, its star, Katrina Lenk, will have done it twice—in a matter of seven months.

“I am constantly going, ‘Wait, what’s happening right now?,’ ” Lenk says on an uncharacteristically chilly August day in New York City, trying to make sense of the position she finds herself in. “I haven’t wrapped my head around it. Yes, it’s fantastic. And now we do the work.”

It’s a grounded appraisal from someone who can attest to the rarity of this once-in-a-career perfect storm. Lenk is not an ingénue or overnight success. Between stints in Los Angeles and Chicago and her tenure in New York, she’s worked diligently for years in television and film, and understudied and replaced others in theater. 

But it wasn’t until last season’s starring role in Paula Vogel’s Tony-nominated “Indecent” (which she’d previously played Off-Broadway) that she became a lightning rod for New York City’s attention. Now, in David Yazbek and Itamar Moses’ “The Band’s Visit,” which she’ll be revisiting in its Main Stem incarnation after starring Off-Broadway, Lenk will lead a musical on Broadway for the first time and step into a role that’s poised to change her life. 

Read the full interview with Katrina at Backstage!

Katrina Lenk Can Quietly Break Your Heart

Quiet may well be the new loud in the world of show tunes. Unexpectedly, one of last season’s most acclaimed new musicals, “The Band’s Visit,” did not feature flashy choreography or cathartic 11 o’clock belters. Based on the 2007 art house film of the same title, the show, which played Off Broadway at the Atlantic Theater, is a low-key charmer in which looking at someone in silence carries as much emotional weight as delivering one of David Yazbek’s insidiously catchy songs.

Mastering both was Katrina Lenk, as the sultry owner of the lone cafe in a dead-end Israeli town, who has a brief encounter with a group of marooned Egyptian musicians, led by Tony Shalhoub. Fortunately, Ms. Lenk is now getting ready to reprise her performance at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, where the show starts Broadway previews on Oct. 7.

Over lunch at the Israeli restaurant Balaboosta in Manhattan a couple of weeks after the closing of Broadway’s “Indecent,” in which she played the passionate prostitute Menke, Ms. Lenk was almost as wry as her “Band’s Visit” character, Dina. Describing how she got cast, she simply said, with a shrug, “I went in, got a callback, then got the part.”

10LENK2-master675.jpg

 

The actress combines classic beauty — her face is dominated by striking wide-set eyes and cheekbones worthy of a 1930s film star — with easygoing friendliness, and her calm default setting seems contagious. When she did a stint as Arachne in “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” about five years ago, the famously accident-prone production stayed out of the news. “There was no drama when I was there,” she said, laughing. “It was the 11 months when nothing went wrong.”

Mr. Yazbek (“Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”) helped fill in the blanks on the casting process, recalling Ms. Lenk’s early performance of one of Dina’s songs. “At some point, she sang ‘Omar Sharif,’ maybe at a callback, and I thought she was Israeli,” he said on the phone. “It was the whole package: the accent, the style, everything.” He recently wrote on Twitter that Ms. Lenk’s take was “one of my two favorite versions of anyone singing any of my shows songs. (The other is Lupone).”

Continue reading full story at NYT

Tony Shalhoub, Katrina Lenk, and More to Return to The Band's Visit for Broadway Bow

Myriad names from the Off-Broadway world premiere of The Band’s Visit will reprise their performances when the critically acclaimed musical transfer to Broadway this fall. Leading the cast will be three-time Tony nominee Tony Shalhoub and Katrina Lenk, currently on Broadway in Indecent.

Shalhoub (The Price) will play Tewfiq—the leader of an Egyptian police band stranded in a small desert town in Israel, while Lenk (Once) takes on the role of Dina, one of the locals who take in the traveling musicians as the two groups form an unexpected bond.

Also returning to the show are George Abud (The Visit) as Camal, Bill Army (Act One) as Zelger, Tony nominee John Cariani (Something Rotten!) as Itzik, Andrew Polk (Burning) as Avrum, Rachel Prather (Once)as Julia, Jonathan Raviv (Martyrs Street) as Sammy, Sharone Sayegh (Mamma Mia!) as Anna, Kristen Sieh (The Fortress of Solitude)as Iris, Ari’el Stachel (We Live in Cairo) as Haled, and Alok Tewari (Awake and Sing!) as Simon.

The company will also include music director and pianist Andrea Grody, as well as band members Alexandra Eckhardt, Philip Mayer, Sam Sadigursky, Jeff Theiss, Harvey Valdes, and Garo Yellin. Compelte casting will be announced at a later date.

Performances will begin October 7 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, where the musical is set to officially open November 9. To purchase tickets, click here.

Read the full article at Playbill.

Strike Up the Band! Final Casting Announced for THE BAND'S VISIT on Broadway

Final casting has been announced for the Broadway production of the critically acclaimed musical THE BAND'S VISIT, arriving on Broadway in Fall 2017 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre (243 West 47th Street).

Joining the previously announced Katrina LenkTony ShalhoubJohn Cariani, Ari'el Stachel, George AbudAndrew PolkBill ArmyRachel PratherJonathan RavivSharone SayeghKristen Sieh and Alok Tewari are Etai Benson (An American in Paris) as "Papi" and Adam Kantor (Fiddler on the Roof) as "Telephone Guy."

Musicians will include Andrea Grody (Music Director/Piano), George Abud (Violin, Oud, Darbuka), Alexandra Eckhardt (Bass), Philip Mayer (Drums, Arabic Percussion), Sam Sadigursky (Clarinet, Saxophones, Flute), Jeff Theiss (Associate Conductor/Keyboard), Harvey Valdes (Guitar) and David Garo Yellin (Cello).

Pomme Koch and Madison Micucci will understudy for THE BAND'S VISIT.

Read the full article at Broadway World