The most important thing about any musical is good music. Good music is what ties the story together and makes everything click. So without it, you have yourself a very weak story. Somewhat fortunately for the Tony-winning “The Band’s Visit,” good music is about the only thing that ties this story together. The musical is surrounded by a plot that feels like it doesn’t know its audience and characters that feel hollow and almost cartoonish.
Taking place in 1996 Israel, a group of Egyptian musicians gets stuck in an Israeli town. I can’t knock too much of the plot itself, as the entire thing is based on an Israeli movie that came out all the way back in 2007. Now we’ve heard of musicals being turned into movies countless times, “Les Miserables,” Mamma Mia,” and “Cats” to name a few. As you can see from my last example, they don’t always work.
“The Band’s Visit” is a perfect example of the opposite.
So many of Disney’s films have been turned into giant Broadway projects that you would think the transition would be seamless. “The Lion King” is perhaps the most popular example. But here’s the thing about “The Lion King.” The Broadway musical was based on the film musical. “The Band’s Visit” is not.
Creating a musical from a non-musical movie creates problems, as it can throw off the tone and overall feel of the film. “The Band’s Visit” is a very comedic, fun movie. With music being the subtext of the plot, you would think it would translate seamlessly. Sadly for the musical, it doesn’t. The music, while exceptional at times, feels off-putting and distracting. Characters sing in the middle of nothing. The play is relatively short —100 minutes with no intermission — which works for its own benefit. The show’s length is nice and complete, which works in the play’s favor.
The acting is also above average, with stand out performances from Janat Decal as the lead character, cafe owner Dina, and Adam Bagay as the lovelorn Papi, whose performances keep the show flowing throughout.
Overall, “The Band’s Visit” is an uneven mess with some stellar performances and songs, that get weighed down by a plot devoid of light, showing that some things should remain movies.
VOX teens had the opportunity to attend press night of “The Band’s Visit,” thanks to Broadway in Atlanta and Most Valuable Kids of Greater Atlanta.