“The Band’s Visit” – ASU Gammage

Theater Review – February 9, 2022


Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

“The Band’s Visit” won ten 2018 Tony Awards including Best Musical making it one of the most Tony-winning musicals in history.  On top of this distinction, it won the 2019 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album after receiving glowing Broadway reviews.  But acclaimed musicals are not always good shows and “The Band’s Visit,” for all its positive intentions, is terrible.  Think “Once,” another awful musical that won many Tonys, and you get an idea of how bad “The Band’s Visit” really is.

The usual ASU Gammage problem of awful sound made it difficult to decipher the show’s lyrics so much of what some heard as humor was lost on others.  Most of the cast performs with thick accents further impacting dialogue comprehension as words evaporate into the vast expanses of the concert venue.

“The Band’s Visit” takes audiences on an unusual journey as an Egyptian band scheduled for a big city Israeli engagement gets stuck in a small backwater town where cultural diversity is foreign.  The show reveals the commonalities of varied cultures and establishes that differences can be respected and tolerated.  A valid message to be sure but why is the show so dully presented?

As staged by David Cromer and choreographed by Patrick McCollum, the show plods boringly through its 103 minutes running time.  The show begins at a tedious crawl and never sparks to capture audience interest or attention.  While the plodding pacing explains the laid-back town’s meandering lifestyle, the show must embrace its audience to make its message viable.

Another comparison.  Think “Fiddler on the Roof,” recently revived on the ASU Gammage Broadway season.  Set in a small Russian village but “Fiddler” never plods lifelessly as it explains why the Jewish town is out of synch with the Russians.  “The Band’s Visit” does possess some charming tunes but it presents more as a play with music and not a musical.

“The Band’s Visit’s” multi-talented cast tries desperately to make the band and townspeople interesting but they have nothing to work with.  On opening night, the female lead, Dina, who represents the Israeli town, was played by understudy Hannah Shankman.  She seemed fine in a listless role as did the other townspeople.  The band members all play their instruments with musical sureness.  A bedraggled set captures the small town’s mediocrity as do the dowdy costumes although the band’s sparkling garb is a pleasant break from the show’s dingy look.

The show was unable to set-up in ASU Gammage by the announced 7:30 opening night curtain so audiences hung out in the inhospitable and cramped lobby.  The show finally started after 8.  Since ASU Gammage seems incapable of getting touring productions to start on time, it would seem logical to move opening night curtains to 8.

“The Band’s Visit” is dull dredge even though its message is legitimate.  The show continues through February 13.  Tickets may be obtained by calling Ticketmaster at 480-965-2022 or ordering tickets online at www.ticketmaster.com.

Grade: D