3.5 out of 4 stars
The Chicago premiere of the critically acclaimed and 10-time Tony Award-winning production THE BAND’S VISIT is stunning! Broadway in Chicago hosts this endearing production for a limited two-week engagement at Cadillac Palace Theatre (151 W. Randolph) from Sept. 10-22, 2019.
After a mix-up at the border, an Egyptian Police Band is sent to a remote village in the middle of the Israeli desert. With no bus until morning and no hotel in sight, these unlikely travelers are taken in by the locals. Under the spell of the desert sky, their lives become intertwined in the most unexpected ways. THE BAND’S VISIT celebrates the deeply human ways music, longing and laughter can connect us all.
THE BAND’S VISIT won 10 2018 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Original Score (David Yazbek), Best Book (Itamar Moses), Lead Actress (Katrina Lenk) and Lead Actor (Tony Shalhoub). The screenplay by Eran Kolirin is directed by Tony, Drama Desk, Lortel & Obie Award winner and Chicago native David Cromer. The exploration of humanity at its core is a musical existence; the language that binds us across cultures and creeds. Entering upon a desolate town the separation between the familiar doldrums and foreign arrivals holds a wonderfully paced humor.
I think what makes the production so successful is the simplistic formed plot over a singular night and the multiple stories that occur over a short time. It seems a relaxed paced, but in an entrancing way. The set holds a central 360 rotation that allows the set to be manipulated and transformed seamlessly between these stories. Patrick McCollum’s choreography is so well paced and designed to entrance the eye. The rotation stage allows the space to be seen as larger than physical in the theater, as basic as that sounds. Having seen other performances with rotations and the blocking and individuals not being as confident with the space can really turn a performance. The blocking upon the rotating stage and this circular movement throughout the work is brilliant! The visuals perpetuate the musical overture forward making it very holistic in a subconscious beautiful way.
The set design by Scott Pask captures the essence of isolation and the mundane in remote places. Although the color scheme is intentionally drab to most, it holds a mystical presence against the similar color in the surround environment. Each set piece blends into one another creating the beige endless landscape dotted with people. It comes to life through the beautifully lighting design and is intoxicating when paired with the projection design by Maya Ciarrocchi. Highlighting macro video of hand movements and waxy moons sends this piece into the dreamscape.
The lighting schemes against these intentionally drab buildings is lovely. Tony Award winner Tyler Micoleau hones in on the magic of light to tell a story against this complex moving backdrop. With a time frame of dusk to dawn, Micoleau examines the way light creates a strong mood in each scene; first love shown through the twinkling disco ball to the singular strong glow from a crib to soft magical moonlight. Moments that are amplified by the careful directional light source in each scene that breathes life into it; picking up the script and dancing with it.
The hinge point in this work personally was Chilina Kennedy’s solo “Omar Sharif”. This alluring song captures your senses visually and lyrically, as Kennedy’s strong independent character Dina illustrates memories from her childhood watching old Egyptian movies with her mother. It truly transports you through the characters feelings and Kennedy’s evoking performance. The bond of memory and the ability music has over our souls is something that transcends across humanity.
Tewfiq, the band conductor played by the talented Sasson Gabay, becomes close with Dina and through an evening together their experiences in the trivial touches each of them so much more than small talk. While Tewfiq shows Dina how to conduct, there is something intrinsically powerful about holding tension and movement all in the flick of a wrist. Passion and innate human values are woven together within this thread of speaking hands that exemplifies how much music touches us all. These beautiful vignettes strung together by an external force in the power of music and how it touches all kinds of people. Everyone holds onto a dream. Everyone is yearning for something. The loss, love, heartbreak, and joy culminating to a call waiting to be answered.
THE BAND’S VISIT will be at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (151 W. Randolph) for a limited two-week engagement from Sept. 10-22, 2019. For more information and tickets, please visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com or TheBandsVisitMusical.com
Mary Crylen is a photographer and writer based in Chicago. She is an alum of Southern Illinois University of Carbondale with dual degrees in English and Photography. She possesses a sincere passion for the arts and believes zeal shows through work. Follow her on Twitter!