What do Footloose and The Sound of Music have in common? More than you think. In both shows, a stranger shakes things up and nothing, and no one, is ever the same. Critics say that The Band’s Visit is the best possible example of this thematic journey. As a writer, I always look for a familiar theme. I can’t promise you Kevin Bacon, but I can promise you that this 2018 Tony Award winning musical about an Egyptian band who takes a wrong turn and ends up in a bleak, forgotten Israeli town will be unforgettable. The residents are transformed through love, empathy, and the power of music.
I’m looking forward to this musical for reasons other than the norm. Rather than big production, sweeping emotion or gripping conflict, this is a quieter musical. The Band’s Visit has none of these hallmarks of a Tony-winning hit. The main focus is the immense value of a paradigm shift on a deeply personal level. Changing human perception and preconceived notions is a fundamental part of this story and what our world needs most right now. The Band’s Visit, based on the 2007 Eran Kolirin screenplay, pairs two groups together with long-standing geopolitical and cultural differences and the result is that they learn they aren’t that different after all. Its success lies in a lack of character typecasting. I’m looking forward to a hopeful message of listening rather than judging, of empathy rather than disregard, and a triumph of the shared human spirit. I’m also looking forward to the way the show unexpectedly combines ethnic Arabic folk music with Broadway-pop. I can’t quite hear it in my head, just yet, but I know that it’s this type of cultural exposure that makes me a better person and better citizen of the world.
One of the best reviews I read of this show notes the importance of “leaning forward.” Together with the characters who must lean forward physically and emotionally to understand each other, as audience members we too should find ourselves leaning forward in our seats to enjoy and engage in the subtleties of this production, whose success far outweighs its budget. Look for the lean within the characters’ body language as you watch the show. Notice when you too might be leaning in. When we lean forward in an exchange with friends, family or even strangers, we participate differently in the conversation. Some say that this musical won a Tony for the “lean forward,” namely the dry humor and carefully chosen dialogue. This show was meant for off-broadway and The Hanover Theatre will be a perfect venue, echoing exactly where the show had its start. I hope you will join me and my family this week at The Band’s Visit. Lean in to the unexpected. Lean into transformation.