by Carly Blake Sebouhian
When I walk around Broadway these days it seems like the marquee for every new musical is based on a pop artist or a mega hit movie. Even though The Band’s Visit was originally a film it’s not one many people have seen, or even heard of. I surely hadn’t. Yet, The Band’s Visit was the show I wanted to see most this season solely based on what I had heard and read about the stage production.
After finally seeing it recently I was so refreshed to see something so unapologetically different. The story is simple and doesn’t resolve itself in a theatrical happy ending. There are lots of quiet book scenes that made me feel like I was watching a true moment in time unfold. The Band’s Visit tells its story exactly how it wants to, without trying to please contemporary audiences who expect to hear singers belting every song to the rafters or see dancers doing backflips. The brilliant actors connect with the audience through their incredible storytelling and move them in a real way.
The songs are unbelievably moving and beautiful. There are also some of the most incredible stage pictures I’ve ever seen. (The number “Omar Sharif” will take your breath away) The entire cast brings a raw and real passion to the story. And then there’s the music. Listening to that gorgeous traditional Middle Eastern sound being played on traditional instruments is exciting and something we never get to hear on Broadway. Can we have more of that please? The musicians are mind blowing. I felt like every element of this show was carefully crafted by an artist who was painting a masterful painting.
The Band’s Visit made me feel like there is still hope for artistic musicals. Of course blockbusters are the big ticket these days. They are great and exciting and bring a whole new generation of theatergoers to Broadway which is amazing. However, I hope that the success of The Band’s Visit also proves that there is still a place for beautiful pieces of art.