The Band’s Visit, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, has moved to Broadway after an award-winning run Off-Broadway last winter. Written by Itamar Moses, it’s based upon an award-winning 2007 Israeli movie. It’s a tongue-in-cheek story of an Egyptian band, the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra, which due to language misunderstandings, takes the wrong bus to a show in Israel. Instead of going to the Tel Aviv suburb Petah Tikvah, where they are supposed to play at the Arab-Israeli Cultural Center, they wind up in Bet Hatikvah, a small, dusty, forgotten town in the Negev Desert.
The show opens with a projection, “Once not long ago a group of musicians cane to Israel from Egypt. You probably didn’t hear about it. It wasn’t very important.”
Life in Bet Hatikvah is slow, and the people seem to be in a time warp. Nothing exciting goes on. Tony Shalhoub plays Colonel Tewfig Zakaria, the commander of the orchestra, with great aplomb. Katrina Lenk plays Dina, the café owner who arranges for the band’s members to have food and lodging overnight, is beautiful and charming with a voice to match. David Cromer’s sensitive direction and David Yazbek’s music and lyrics capture the feelings and growth of overnight friendship between the two, and Mr. Shalhoub and Ms. Lenk persuasively play their roles. The friendship that develops between Israeli and Egyptian is critical to the theme that we are all humans who seek a sense of belonging.
The Band’s Visit runs for an hour and a half. This is a sweet, heart-warming and charming musical. The show is suited for everyone, but it might be a bit slow-moving for some theatergoers.