The Band’s Visit a co-production by The Huntington Theatre and SpeakEasy Stage is not the typical musical, and that’s what makes it the show of the season, because there is nothing that can be substituted for it. The musical has the usual elements, a great set, actors, singers, musicians, solos and ensemble songs, but it also has three languages, and a “main character” which is a band that not only plays the part of band members but actually play throughout the show. The story line is simple and sweet. It isn’t heavy, political, or overly emotional, but rather tender and sweet. It is just the right show for right now.
The Band’s Visit, premiered in 2015 in NYC by the Atlantic Theatre Company and is now playing in Boston through December 17th at The Huntington Theatre. The story is set in a fictional very small town in the middle of the Negev Desert, 1996. The cast of characters are a few of the small town residents, one a café owner, and a military band from Egypt. The story is one of mundane life in a small town, human connection, love, loss, and some sort of non-religious fate, or maybe just the simple facts of missed connections.
Many of the songs are tender and sweet and Jennifer Apple’s voice delivers them perfectly. When the band plays, the tempo jumps and the music goes from tender to lively. The band plays a klezmer type music throughout. They break into song for scene transitions and play in the foreground at times as well. The band actors are also the band players. Their artistry and talent is impressive. Musicals tend to be very showy, but this one is not. . There are comedic characters, and there is a slight love story of sorts, but the moments are subtle.
The set for The Band’s Visit is wonderfully simple yet very effective. I am always impressed at how sets shift and change in creative ways and The Huntington is top notch for this. The addition of the band’s music for the transitions was the cherry on top.
The musical is in three languages, although most of the songs are in English. My mother, who came with me, could understand the Hebrew and the English, and I could only understand the English. It didn’t really matter whether you could understand just the English, the English and the Hebrew, the English and the Arabic or all three languages. It may be a little more difficult to enjoy if you just understand Hebrew or Arabic. Having parts of the show be out of my reach linguistically just added to the charm of the musical. The whole premise of the show is a communication gap after all.
The Band’s Visit plays at the Huntington Theatre through December 17th. Tickets can be purchased here.