Matthew Murphy

Michael Musto: Could “The Band’s Visit” Be Broadway’s Next “Hamilton”?

The new musical explores cross-cultural connection between two disparate groups.

While Broadway is awash with jukebox musicals, revivals, and musical adaptations of overly familiar films, there’s finally something you can’t say “That’s been done!” about. Yes, there are mild echoes of Come From Away’s cross culturalism themes in it, but basically, The Band’s Visit—with a score by David Yazbek and a book by Itamar Moses, based on the 2007 Eran Kolirin screenplay—feels fresh and innovative, just like Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen did before it, in very different ways.

Unlike those two Tony-winning shows, this one—directed by David Cromer—doesn’t serve big numbers or Broadway-style razzmatazz. In telling the story of an Egyptian police band that ends up in an overnight stay at a reputedly beige, bland, and boring Israeli desert town, it eschews easy jokes (though there’s humor), production numbers, and obvious emotions in exchange for continually moving sets by Scott Pask, a score filled with jazzy and exotic sounds, and a lot of atmosphere.
 

There are some moments where the cast stays immobile, not afraid to be still or quiet, and that will be challenging for those who want their shows more traditionally presented, but this one has rewards. Things especially click when Tony Shalhoub—dignified and touching as a conductor who’s a sort of mature Omar Sharif in a “Sgt. Pepper suit”—and Katrina Lenk—a sensational actress (from Indecent) who seems like an Angelina-type movie star in the making, playing the tough but yearning restaurateur—carry on a muted romance. There are allusions to Chet Baker’s version of “My Funny Valentine,” and once the transformative visit is over, the whole piece leads to a post curtain call number by the band within the show that’s truly socko.

The message is made crystal clear when one character unexpectedly becomes a love coach to another and urges, “No edge, no walls, no border” between people. Trump would absolutely loathe that, which is high recommendation indeed.

Michael Musto is the long running, award-winning entertainment journalist and TV commentator.
@mikeymusto