“Welcome to Katz Reviews. This is Ed Katz of Katnip Marketing- marketing consultant by day; theater and film critic by night- bringing my weekly review segment, Katz Reviews, here for you on WICC 600.
Two years ago the buzz was all about ‘Hamilton’ being the “sure thing” “can’t miss” for Best Musical on Broadway.
Last year it was ‘Dear Evan Hansen.’ This year- so far- the buzz is all about ‘The Band’s Visit.’ Several years ago I first heard they were making a musical based on the film ‘The Band’s Visit.’ Curious, I got the DVD and watched the film. Or, I tried to. See, I actually fell asleep watching it. It took me three times before I finally saw the film to its finish. And it is a sweet little film- slow moving, yes, but sweet.
Still, when I heard they were making a musical based on that film I was shocked. Really? That film?! I mean- almost nothing happens! How could they make a musical from that? So it was funny when, last week as my wife and I were walking in to the theater in New York, we heard someone behind us say that exact same thing! They couldn’t believe it, either. Yet most critics have raved about it- and I know several people who’ve seen this musical and their comments were all positive.
But when the show starts out slowly- with the characters singing about how boring their town is- where nothing happens- and they devote the first two songs to that: ‘Waiting’ (as in for something- anything– to happen) and ‘Welcome to Nowhere,’ I began to wonder when it starts to pick up. And it does- but it takes a while.
photo: Tony Shalhoub, Katrina Lenk; Playbill.com
Tony Shalhoub plays the leader of an Egyptian band that- on their way to perform a concert in Israel… you know, to promote good will between the two countries- gets lost and goes to the wrong town in Israel.
Lucky for them they wind up at a cafe run by Katrina Lenk. By the way, she was fantastic in last year’s excellent Broadway play, ‘Indecent.’ And she provides the lively contrast to Tony Shalhoub’s reserved band leader character here. She opens up her cafe- and her home- to the band for the night, as they have missed the last bus to the city they were supposed to go to.
And that’s the story- the band is stuck in a small town for a night and they talk- and sing- with the locals. Sure, there is (what becomes) a touching scene at a roller skating rink with some of those locals- to liven it up a bit- but book writer Itamar Moses has kept it as pretty much the same sweet story as the movie.
Some of the music, by David Yazbek, is quite good- particularly ‘Answer Me’ at the end. And the guy who plays the bongo drum… is truly incredible. He’s a marvel! But this show is no ‘Dear Evan Hansen.’ Nor is it ‘Hamilton.’
David Cromer’s direction is very capable but Patrick McCollum’s choreography is really just okay. Scott Pask is an award-winning set designer for ‘Book of Mormon’- but his sets here are truly nothing exciting. At all. And, at least in the skating rink scene, it could have been. Sorry folks, ‘The Band’s Visit’ is pretty good but it doesn’t live up to all the hype. I give it 3-1/2 stars out of 5.
Catch my reviews right here this time each week and on my Facebook page and website, Katz Reviews dot com, where you will find all my WICC 600 reviews. This is Ed Katz talking theater for WICC 600!”