The Band’s Glorious (Re) Visit to Bet Haatikva and My Heart.
Last December at the Atlantic Theater in Chelsea, I was mesmerized. The Band’s Visit was nearing the end of its short Off-Broadway run and I was lucky enough to squeak in before closing. The musical, that is now making its Broadway debut is absolutely and quietly devastating in its magnificence. It has a beauty to its sadness, and a sense of goodness and hope in its desire. Not much has changed with this perfectly constructed piece as it sails uptown into the Ethel Barrymore Theater on the sweet ocean air that hints of jasmine. That aroma seems to hang on those lovely blue suits that are worn proudly by the musicians of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra. They have come to Israel to play at the Arab Cultural Center in Petah Tikva, but a sweet turn of events sends the Band on a different kind of visit. They bring with them the smell of the ocean in that blue, and that is just what the town folk of Bet Haatikva (and Broadway for that matter) have been waiting for, even if we all didn’t know it when they first walked in.
That town, the one in the middle of the Israeli desert, tells us everything we need to know when they sing that perfectly apt song, “Waiting”, as they circulate in on their way to no-where-in-particular. The residents are itching for something new to blow into town, somewhere between the cafe and the apartment buildings. The song suggests boredom but also a faint aroma of hope. They are all waiting and wanting for anything to shake up their staleness. And than, as if blown in from a far away land, the blue suited musicians walk on, and the brilliant “Welcome to Nowhere” solidifies just how deep the need is for that whiff of some strange kind of spice to penetrate their dusty desert air. It’s drenched in Israeli sarcasm but also survival, frustration, and humor. It’s about as perfect a ‘welcome song’ as one could imagine, but not one we’d like to hear getting off a bus after a long ride.
But the lost musicians are a welcome sight, for myself, for Broadway, and for the residents of Bet Haatikva. The only thing that might have changed with their bus ride transfer uptown to Broadway is that The Band’s Visit has become more solid and in some way, this musical, based on the 2007 film, sits more squarely and securely on stage. The set, designed by Scott Pask (Waitress) feels more sure-footed and rooted onto this bigger stage, more at home than downtown. And the musical, itself, feels more sure of its power, its wit, and its deep strong emotional core. So when that Orchestra arrives in Israel from Egypt for a cultural event, with no delegation to meet them, nor any arrangements to get to their destination, they find their own ride. Lined up on that magnificent set, the misunderstanding that leads them astray, we are sure, is a wonderful gift from some higher power to us all. (for the full review, click here)