A reviews round-up of The Band’s Visit at the Donmar Warehouse
The Band’s Visit has had its European premiere at the Donmar Warehouse in London. Winner of 10 Tony Awards on Broadway, the show is directed by Donmar Warehouse Artistic Director Michael Longhurst, and runs at the Donmar until 3 December 2022.
David Yazbek and Itamar Moses’ musical, based on the screenplay by Eran Kolirin, stars award-winning Israeli singer and actress Miri Mesika as Dina, and award-winning Israeli film, TV and stage actor Alon Moni Aboutboul as Tewfiq.
Other cast and onstage band includes Peter Polycarpou, Emma Kingston, Sharif Afifi, Jason Alder, Marc Antolin, Harel Glazer, Levi Goldmeier, Ido Gonen, Michal Horowicz, Shira Kravitz, Nitai Levi, Yali Topol Margalith, Ashley Margolis, Carlos Mendoza de Hevia, Ant Romero, Idlir Shyti, Maya Kristal Tenenbaum, Sargon Yeldaand Baha Yetkin.
More reviews to follow
The Band's Visit reviews
"The humane spirit of this show is irresistible"
"The production thrillingly blends Middle Eastern and Western musical traditions"
"Israeli townsfolk and an Egyptian police band find common ground in this witty, delightfully odd chamber musical by American composer-lyricist David Yazbek and writer Itamar Moses. Deftly sketching a series of empathetic encounters over a single night, The Band’s Visit also thrillingly blends Middle Eastern and Western musical traditions, and splices passages of Arab and Hebrew dialogue – completely comprehensible without subtitles, by the way – into the script."
"Michael Longhurst’s European premiere features a cosmopolitan cast, with a standout lead vocal performance from Israeli star Miri Mesika."
"Many performers in this large cast get few or no lines. The acting is iffy at the edges and the pacing is off at the start. But the humane spirit of this show is irresistible and the core group of musicians and actor-players very tight indeed."
"Musical finds gentle harmony in desert tale"
"These characters seem to be on the long and winding road to nowhere. And, strange as it seems, you want to accompany them every step of the way."
"Directed by Michael Longhurst, The Band’s Visit is much more satisfying, even if it may well baffle anyone who hasn’t seen the movie."
"Is the story some grand metaphor for the insoluble nature of the Middle East conflict? Not at all. What strikes you most is the universality of the narrative. Far from being representatives of monolithic political forces, these individuals are, for the most part, solitary folk craving some sort of community."
"Staged with economic eloquence"
"Slight and sweet musical story of human connection beyond politics"
"Yazbek’s score, which blends Arabic music with jazz and klezmer, is ravishingly lovely. And Michael Longhurst’s production is staged with economic eloquence, and beautifully performed. I wish I could have loved it more. But I found myself growing increasingly impatient with the show’s surface-skimming narrative and sentimentality."
"... there’s an airy absence of detail in a piece that leaves us to weave meaning from its gossamer threads. It charms, but that – I’m genuinely sorry to say – doesn’t feel like quite enough."
"Entrancing musical about nothing and nowhere"
"When an Egyptian orchestra accidentally tips up in a sleepy Israeli backwater, lives are changed in the quietest of ways"
"Nothing is as beautiful as something you didn’t expect.” That’s the story of this 2016 musical, and also its entrancing effect."
"... it’s music that drives the show forward, nudging the characters’ anxious minds and clouded hearts"
"In a stunning performance by Israeli performer Miri Mesika, each song reveals new textures in her voice, from sardonic iron to yearning velvet. The standout number has her sink into the memory of watching Omar Sharif’s romantic movies, “floating in on a jasmine wind”."
"This unexpected night may not change lives forever – but it helps people face a new day."
"This bittersweet, idiosyncratic musical about a lost Egyptian band gets a gorgeous UK premiere"
"For a moment, it looks like ‘The Band’s Visit’ will be a sort of Middle Eastern ‘Come from Away’ – an aggressively heartwarming drama about a group of people who randomly end up in a small town and everybody grows and learns something, vom vom vom. In fact it’s a beautiful, haunting work about loss, loneliness and the desire for human warmth."
"Much of the magic is to do with the exceptional casting (big props to casting director Anna Cooper). In an international ensemble of mostly (possibly entirely) Middle Eastern extraction, the band members all really play instruments, with many taking on substantial acting roles too. There’s something ineffably beautiful about the mournful solo trumpets or clarinets that cut through the night air; and then the percussive, rhymic roar of their final ensemble instrumental tune is pure joy, morning sun exploding over the horizon after a long night."
"Given it was a hit on Broadway, I’m sure it could be a hit on the West End. But I wonder how easy it would be to hold this sprawling and uniquely talented international ensemble together; and, frankly, it’s hard to see how such an intimate show could possibly have the same impact in a big, formal West End playhouse. Catch it before it slips away into the night."
"The Band’s Visit is a magical, bijou musical to send the soul soaring"
"Even without any big numbers, this tale of the transformative power of music won 10 Tony Awards in 2018 – to see it is to realise why"
"Here’s a musical made of magic to send the soul soaring. There are no big numbers, no razzmatazz chorus lines, there’s barely much of a story. Yet this bijou show won 10 Tonys in 2018 and now arrives in a new, effortlessly seductive production by Michael Longhurst featuring a crack Israeli and Arab cast. It’s one of the best things he’s staged at the Donmar."
"The performances meanwhile are terrific – notably the star Israeli actress and singer Miri Mesika as Dina, who captures a life’s worth of yearning in a single song – while the virtuoso band are their own validation for the power of melody and a foot-tapping beat. It’s quiet and simple, yes, but it’s precisely that alchemy that makes it special. I’d watch it again in a flash."
"“Welcome to nowhere,” sing the locals, as they warn their unexpected visitors that this is a place where nothing happens. And that is borne out in the story, which is low on incident, high on atmosphere"
"The skimpiness of the piece does undermine it. Most characters have little depth and some are barely sketched at all, such as the tired wife (Michal Horowicz) and the lovesick lad (Ashley Margolis). The latter does eventually lead a joyous song, but it feels frustrating to have him sit by a wall all evening."
"... it’s the music that makes this show. Yazbek deploys a rich, intoxicating mix of Arab music, klezmer and jazz, which lifts this collection of vignettes into a fragile meditation on hope and connection"
"The best show at the Donmar Warehouse in ages"
"The Band’s Visit restores faith in humanity. This little show, adapted from a 2007 film, is funny, sad, romantic, bleak and compact, but universal, with wonderful Middle Eastern music thrown into the mix"
"What a beguiling evening. It never hectors, does not complain. It sees the best in its characters. There are cameos of love and disappointment, of furtive attraction and smothered sorrow"
"A vibrant oddball musical bridges the Israeli-Arab gap"
"The story is simple and sometimes expressed awkwardly, with bumbling humour in the opening moments"
"Yazbek’s lyrics, chronicles of everyday life as well as of romantic yearning – have a haunting edge. Most songwriters would be pleased to have come up with a line that defines the stage as well as a feeling: “Sodium light that masquerades as moon.”"