Regional Reviews: Raleigh/Durham
The Band's Visit
The current national tour stars Sasson Gabay as Tewfiq Zakaria, the leader of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra in Egypt. On a goodwill trip to Israel, he and his players are accidentally diverted to the isolated desert town of Bet Hatikva. The Egyptian band meets some of the emotionally stunted citizens of the town, one of whom is a cafe owner by the name of Dina (Janet Dacal). There is no transportation out of town until the next day and no hotels in which to stay, so the townspeople provide food and shelter to the band members for the night. Through the sharing of their stories and music, these two markedly different groups of people learn more about each other than they had ever thought to expect in a single night.
Gabay created the role of Tewfiq in the original film, and he played the role on Broadway after Tony Shalhoub (who originated the role there) left. Bookwriter Itamar Moses limits our understanding of Tewfiq until near the end of the show, and by then the audience has barely a chance to empathize with him. This is the case with many of the characters in factall but cafe-owner Dina (portrayed sternly by Janet Dacal), who clearly is the focus of development. The musical runs about 80 minutes without an intermission, and it feels as though there was room to develop the other characters more. Ms. Dacal's performance is credible though lacking some passionate resonance. All of that said, The Band's Visit pushes back against common American stereotypes of Middle Easterners with authentic and positive representation.
David Yazbek's Tony-winning score is definitely award-worthy. Blending authentic Arabic music with Broadway-style storytelling, his score is both entertaining and enlightening. As one of the titles hints, these songs are "Something Different" to the American ear. And though the most talked-about musical number from this musical has been Dina's "Omar Sharif," the standouts to this reviewer's mind are two lovely songs that come later. "Haled's Song About Love," sung by bandmember Haled (portrayed here by the talented Joe Joseph), has a smooth jazzy 1940s sound that should sweep anyone away. And "Answer Me," sung by the character simply known as Telephone Guy (an arresting Joshua Grosso), brings the sense of undying hope and life to an affecting crescendo.
The citizens of Bet Hatikva are in a purgatory of waiting for things great and small, and none embody this more purely than the character of the Telephone Guy, who has waited almost the entire length of the musical beside a pay telephone for a call from a girlfriend long gone. His steadfast hope without any evidence to support it is a powerful reminder that we see the world the way we choose to see it.
Guests 12 years of age and over are required to provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination status or a recent negative COVID-19 test. Face coverings are also required per the City of Durham.
The Band's Visit is presented by Trust Broadway and runs through October 10, 2021, at Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian St., Durham NC. Tickets can be purchased online at www.dpacnc.com, www.ticketmaster.com, by phone at 919-680-2787, or the Ticket Center at DPAC in person. For more information on the tour, please visit thebandsvisitmusical.com.
Music and Lyrics: David Yazbek