“Once, not long ago, a group of musicians came to Israel, from Egypt…” to the Philadelphia Kimmel Center and received a standing ovation. The critically acclaimed musical, winner of 10 Tony Awards, The Band's Visit composed by David Yazbek is a delightful offbeat story.
This story of human connection starts as the Egyptian experiences a mishap and is left stranded in Israel. They happen upon a small cafe and start to talk with the locals. The cafe owner Dina, (Janet Dacal) suggest that they spend the night with a few locals. Band leader Tewfiq, (Sasson Gabai) encourages the group as they accept the invitation. As overnight guest, they get to experience the culture and learn about their similarities.
The plot is simple and there are no bells in whistles but you must be quiet to experience the music and the whispers throughout the performance. The cast often speaks in Arabic and this is a definite barrier. In fact, I felt left out of a few of the jokes as the audience laughed. The characters are however relatable as you witness them experience things common to any language. The scene where the mother appears tired and has a breakdown leaving the house as the father, tries to comfort the crying baby pulled on everyone's heart strings.
Speaking with the cast at Zahav Restaurant, Israeli cuisine, during the panel discussion confirmed my thoughts that the storyline was intended to show how music can unite souls and rise above cultural barriers. We are reminded to view people as people and let go of our biases- Be good neighbors!
The tour continues until August 2020 and additional details can be found here.