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.