Metro Weekly

Editor’s Pick: The Band’s Visit at the Kennedy Center

The musical, which won Tonys for Best Musical, Book, Score, Actor, Actress, and Direction, plays through Sunday at the KenCen.

The Band's Visit: Joe Joseph, Sasson Gabay, Janet Dacal -- Photo: Evan Zimmerman, MurphyMade
The Band’s Visit: Joe Joseph, Sasson Gabay, Janet Dacal — Photo: Evan Zimmerman/MurphyMade

There are no bad songs in composer and lyricist David Yazbek’s The Band’s Visit.

In fact, the 10-time Tony-winning musical — and one of only four ever to win the unofficial “Big Six” trophies — Best Musical, Book, Score, Actor, Actress, and Direction — has enough memorable, lushly romantic, or sardonically funny tunes that it might be hard to choose a favorite.

It seems every scene in the show — based on the eponymous 2007 film about an eight-man band from Egypt stuck for a night in a tiny, Israeli desert town — is unerringly complemented by just the right musical mood.

David Comer’s staging also beautifully fuses day-in-the-life storytelling with the naturally performative aspects of onstage musicians.

Comer and choreographer Patrick McCollum dance, turn, and revolve the impassioned cast around Scott Pask’s evocative sets with subtle, sometimes deadpan, precision.

And the relaxed rhythms create a gentle sense of motion, despite a story largely about waiting in place. That’s what the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra is doing in the fictional Bet Hatikva.

But the lethargic, little town is not to be mistaken for Petah Tikva, the thriving industrial city where the band had intended to travel for a concert.

Instead, stranded in sleepy Bet Hatikva, the band partakes in the somehow dreamy sense of going nowhere fast that permeates every life and building. The story, with a book by Itamar Moses, is simple yet gloriously rich, and captures the ephemeral yet intense connections made between strangers.

The band’s strict but kind leader, Colonel Tewfik Zakaria, finds himself particularly moved by the connection he forges with outwardly cynical Dina. Gabay persuasively defines Tewfik as a man who doesn’t easily make new friends, except for when in exceptional, disorienting circumstances.

Also spending his life waiting in Bet Hatikva is a kid, known as Telephone Guy, who’s devoting himself to that brighter shade of waiting called anticipation.

He’ll wait day and night for his love to call, if that’s what it takes. Some treasures must be sought, while others, with patience, can be counted on to come to you. The Band’s Visit is just such a treasure, to be relished up close before the production resumes its travels to distant lands. 

Through July 17. Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. Tickets are $45 to $155. Call 202-467-4600, or visit www.kennedy-center.org.

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