I love going to concerts but it’s nice to switch it up every one in awhile. Whether it’s an orchestral performance or a showing of a movie, I feel like I’m constantly looking for something new and exciting to do so I was thrilled when I got invited to check out a musical at the beautiful Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. I had never heard of ‘That Band’s Visit’ prior to last night’s performance but I knew that I loved musicals and knew that being in the midst of the stress of buying a town home, all I needed was to be whisked away to another place where there was no talk of an old air conditioner or having to caulk toilets and no worry about taking the plunge into homeownership. I feel like my stress and anxiety levels are completely out of control right now so I was excited to escape if only for 100 minutes.
“Once, not so long ago, a group of musicians came to Israel from Egypt. You probably didn’t hear about it. It wasn’t very important.”
‘The Band’s Visit’ has come in the form of a book, a movie and now, a critically acclaimed musical. Although reading books and watching movies is great, seeing this story played out on stage added a magical touch to the charming story. The musical tells the story of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra’s journey to the wrong town and the effect that the musicians from the orchestra had on the locals of a very small Israeli town. The musical starts with the musicians standing in a bus stop and one of the members asking the woman at the ticket counter for tickets to Petah Tikvah, but due to his Egyptian accent, she misunderstands him and sells him tickets to the isolated desert town of Bet Hatikva. This opening scene had the audience rolling with laughter but also had me left with a feeling of intrigue and wonderment. I wasn’t quite sure where this production was going to go but I knew I was strapped in and ready for the ride.
The set on the stage looked simple at the beginning but, as the musical progressed, the stage was transformed to many different settings including a disco, a cafe, and different apartments and living spaces. The creativity that went behind the set was almost as stunning as the musical itself. One of the most striking elements of the stage performance was the way the middle part of the stage would turn slowly like a clock giving the actors and crew a chance to switch scenes and show movement without the musical coming to a halt. It was small details like this that made the 100 minutes in an Israeli desert town feel more like a couple of minutes.
I’m not going to be one to judge acting since I’m not an actor nor ever will be but, from what I can tell, the cast nailed it. Every line was said with a sense of conviction and love and every movement seemed to have a purpose without feeling overly stiff or boring. Although these actors and actresses do this night after night, there was still something free and organic feeling about their performance that had me absolutely captivated. The captivation wasn’t solely due to the acting talent, it was also due to the voices. Every single body that hit the stage last night had a voice that gave me chills. From Chilina Kennedy who played Dina (the main character) to Mike Cefalo who played “the telephone guy”, everyone had a set of pipes on them that I envied and only wish I could experience night after night.
Being a music person, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the stellar work of not only the “band members” on the stage, but also the pit which, although I couldn’t see from my seat, definitely had a huge hand it pulling this production off. Watching the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra members perform live on stage throughout the performance made this production feel more real than not. Although we were obviously in Minneapolis in the dead of winter, for 100 minutes I was in a remote desert area of Israel and it honestly couldn’t have happened had it not been for the band. Although there were no ripping guitar solos or banging drum breaks, there were swells of emotion and sound throughout ‘The Band’s Visit’ that were placed and played with a sense of care and intention.
This is my first time attempting to review a music and I will never claim to be a musical reviewer but it’s definitely something I hope to get into a bit deeper in the future. Although they are different, there are many similarities between musicals and concerts that just can not be ignored. Because of those similarities, I was able to escape the stress of my life for a little be on Tuesday night thanks to the brilliant musicians, actors, actresses, stage hands and everyone else that had a part in ‘The Band’s Visit’. Bravo and thank you to them all.
The Band’s Visit is playing now through the December 15. You can get tickets HERE