The Band’s Visit kicked off its national tour at The Providence Performing Arts Center in what was truly a magical showcase of fantastic talent. Going into this show, I expected to enjoy it, and I loved it, but I did not expect to laugh as much as I did even about regular things such as fishing and Chet Baker.
One thing that the show does an excellent job at is making it feel genuine and like you are really in Bet Hatikva. For one, the fact that the characters will occasionally switch to their native languages and that it is explained why they are speaking English makes it feel real and it makes sense. The characters are speaking in English not to make the show easier to understand for the audience, but rather, the Egyptians are making it easier for the citizens of Bet Hatikva to understand them and vice versa. The terrific performance using instruments that would actually be used in the Egyptian Police Orchestra also adds to the magic of bringing the audience into the show.
The music is definitely one of, if not, the most important aspect of this show. The actors in the show are the ones that are actually playing the music. Back when I interviewed James Rana, he told me that some of the people in the show are musicians that are new in acting and others are actors that are new in music and they all did incredible at both arts. The music was able to help tell a story and you could not help but be taken in by the music. During scene transitions, members of the band would be playing their instruments in one of the corners of the stage. It would always liven things up and would make the next scene feel fresh and it helped to make sure the show did not drag on. On-stage instruments being paired with vocals made for one entertaining show that always kept me on the edge of my seat, wondering what the talent was going to make happen next.
The story itself was a simple story that many people can relate to. A member of the Egyptian Police Orchestra mishears the person at the bus-stop and the band ends up going to the wrong city. They meet the people of a city where nothing ever really happens and they long for something fresh and exciting to enter into their lives. The musicians get a taste of a life they have no experience in and the citizens of Bet Hatikva get some new spice added into their lives for just a night. All of the characters express what they long for: Dina wishes for her life to not be so bland, Tewfiq expresses how he misses his family, Simon longs to conduct and to finally finish his concerto, Papi wishes to find a woman for his own, Iris expresses how she wants someone different and more grown-up than her husband, and the telephone guy waits at the phone for over a month to answer the call from his girlfriend that does not come until the very end of the production. Us humans can so easily relate to longing and wishing for something that seems so far out of reach. Some of us act like Tewfiq and hide our feelings with a rough exterior and pretend that there is nothing that we are longing for, and others act like the telephone guy, waiting at the phone of hope to ring despite what we are told and what we are called. The story is such a simple story for the common man to understand, but when one peels back the layers of the show, we can gain a new perspective on man and on ourselves.
For several millennia, theater has always been an outlet for people to express themselves and their ideas through the vessels of the stage and of actors to the engaged audience watching the act. The Band’s Visit is a superb example of theater at its core and at its finest. If you want to laugh, to sympathize, and to think, The Band’s Visit is one of the most rewarding shows to view. I would like to thank the production for a great show, James Rana for letting me get a terrific interview out of him, and Ms. DiPompo for making this entire experience possible for me and The Archway. Thank you. Photo Description: Chilina Kennedy & Sasson Gabay. Photo by Matthew Murphy.