The Band's Visit (musical)

The Band's Visit is a stage musical with music and lyrics by David Yazbek and a book by Itamar Moses, based on the 2007 Israeli film of the same name. The musical opened on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in November 2017, after its off-Broadway premiere at the Atlantic Theater Company in December 2016.

The Band’s Visit
Playbill for the Broadway production
MusicDavid Yazbek
LyricsDavid Yazbek
BookItamar Moses
SettingNegev, 1996
BasisThe Band's Visit
by Eran Kolirin
PremiereNovember 11, 2016 (2016-11-11): Linda Gross Theater
Productions2016 Off-Broadway
2017 Broadway
2019 North American Tour
AwardsTony Award for Best Musical
Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical
Tony Award for Best Original Score
Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album

The Band's Visit has received critical acclaim. Its off-Broadway production won several major awards, including the 2017 Obie Award for Musical Theatre, as well the year's New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical. At the 72nd Tony Awards, it was nominated for 11 awards and won 10, including Best Musical. The Band's Visit is one of four musicals in Broadway history to win the unofficial "Big Six" Tony Awards, which include Best Musical, Best Book, Best Score, Best Actor in a Musical, Best Actress in a Musical, and Best Direction of a Musical. It won the 2019 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.[1]


The original production premiered in Off-Broadway previews at the Atlantic Theater Company on November 11, 2016, had its official opening on December 8, 2016, and closed on January 8, 2017. The musical was developed and produced with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Laurents/Hatcher Foundation, and the National Alliance for Musical Theatre's National Fund for New Musicals.[2] The musical was directed by David Cromer with choreography by Patrick McCollum and movement by Lee Sher and starred Tony Shalhoub, Katrina Lenk, and John Cariani.[3][4][5][6]

The musical began previews on Broadway on October 7, 2017, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre prior to an official opening on November 9, 2017.[7][8][9]

On September 10, 2018, the producers announced that it had recouped its $8.75 million capitalization cost.[10][11]

The Broadway production closed on April 7, 2019 after 589 regular and 36 preview performances.[11][12]

The musical began its first national tour at the Providence Performing Arts Center in Providence, Rhode Island on June 25, 2019. The tour will have 27 stops across North America.[13]


In 1996, the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra, just arrived in Israel, are waiting in Tel Aviv's central bus station. They expect to be welcomed by a representative from a local Arab cultural organization, but no one shows up. The group's leader, the quiet Colonel Tewfiq Zakaria, eventually decides the group will take the bus and instructs the younger, adventurous officer, Haled, to purchase the group's bus tickets. At the ticket office, Haled asks the clerk for a ticket to the city of Petah Tikvah, but due to his Egyptian accent, she misunderstands him and sells him tickets to the isolated desert town of "Bet Hatikva".

The scene shifts to Bet Hatikva, where the residents bemoan the boring and monotonous lives they lead in the desert ("Waiting"). When the band arrives in Bet Hatikva, they approach two cafe workers, Papi and Itzik, to ask for directions to the Arab cultural centre for their performance the next day. Unsure who these men are and what they're asking about, they get the café's owner, a charismatic woman named Dina. Tewfiq again asks for directions to the cultural centre before Dina realizes they think this is Petah Tikvah, and explains that this is the wrong place, and they must have taken the wrong bus ("Welcome to Nowhere"). Dina tells the group that the next bus does not arrive until the next day. One of the band members looks for a phone to contact the Egyptian embassy, but Dina tells him that the only pay phone in town is guarded over, every night, by a man who obsessively waits for his girlfriend to call him, even though it has been months. Dina offers the band a meal and a place to stay for the night, and Tewfiq reluctantly agrees. In her kitchen, Tewfiq asks her about her background, and she tells how she was once married, and nothing in real life went as she had idealistically and naively thought ("It Is What It Is"). She asks Tewfiq the same, and he tells of a wife and son in Egypt.

Meanwhile, Itzik allows the band member Simon to stay with him, his wife, their baby, and his father-in-law, Avrum. During dinner, Simon asks what happened to Avrum's wife, and Avrum says she passed away. When Simon asks when she passed, he is silenced; Avrum says it is healthy for him to talk about it. He tells the story of how he met his wife many years ago at a club and remembers how music had been the foundation for their entire relationship. Itzik and Simon are touched by the story, but Itzik's wife continues to eat silently, avoiding all interaction during the meal ("The Beat of Your Heart").

That night, everyone makes plans to go out. Papi is invited on a double date with his crush but suffers from anxiety about going out with her. Haled tags along. Dina offers to show Tewfiq around Bet Hatikva, which he again is reluctant to accept. At dinner, Dina asks Tewfiq about what style of music his band plays. After he claims they stick to traditional Arab music, she mentions how as a child she would listen to music on Egyptian radio stations, from the likes of Umm Kulthum, and movies starring Omar Sharif. Tewfiq quotes one of the movies in question and they bond over the shared memories ("Omar Sharif").

At the roller skating rink, Haled watches from afar as Papi continues to ignore his crush and clumsily skate. After Papi defuses a brief altercation between Haled and one of the guards at the rink, Papi explains his romantic anxieties to Haled ("Papi Hears the Ocean"). After accidentally causing his crush to slip on her skates and fall down, Papi is petrified yet again. Haled helps to boost Papi's confidence, which leads to Papi and his crush finally embracing each other ("Haled's Song About Love").

After their dinner, Dina takes Tewfiq to "The Park", which is just a bench in the middle of Bet Hatikva. She asks him what it is like to have an orchestra and play music for people. He initially stutters, but after she asks him to sing, he begins to show her what it's like to be a conductor by allowing her to mimic his arm motions as he sings (“Itgara’a”). Despite not being able to understand his Arabic lyrics, she remains mesmerized by him and wonders if his visit to Bet Hatikva was meant for her by fate ("Something Different").

Itzik sings his son to sleep ("Itzik's Lullaby"), but in frustration with his lack of ambition in life, his wife leaves. Simon is initially concerned, but Itzik tells him that this happens often and she always returns. Soon, she does, and their son begins to cry. Simon is able to soothe the infant by playing his original concerto on his clarinet. Itzik and his wife reconcile, and Simon says goodbye to Avrum before going to bed.

Dina finally asks more about Tewfiq's life. When she approaches the topic of his son, he reveals that he and his son never quite got along, which has bothered Tewfiq to this day and was the likely reason of his son's suicide. He also tells how his wife ended her life, as well, due to the heartbreak. Now visibly distraught, Tewfiq resists Dina's romantic advances as Haled arrives with news that the bus will be there in the morning to take them to Petah Tikvah. Tewfiq starts to leave the room, upset, while Dina solemnly recalls the meaning of their relationship ("Something Different (Reprise)"). Once Tewfiq is gone, Haled jokingly compliments her eyes, and she kisses him forcefully.

Distraught, the 'telephone guy' questions his devotion to his loved one as he continues to wait by the pay phone. He and the citizens of Bet Hatikva long for the presence of a meaning to their lives as they anticipate the return to normalcy ("Answer Me"). Suddenly, just as 'telephone guy' gives up hope, the phone rings and he speaks to his girlfriend for the first time in months.

The following morning, the band gathers by Dina's cafe before they prepare to board the next bus. As they begin to board, Dina hands Tewfiq a piece of paper with "Petah Tikvah" on it to ensure he doesn't forget.

Later that day, the band makes it to the Petah Tikvah's Arab cultural centre. Once they are in their places, Tewfiq begins to conduct, and the stage cuts to black.

Off-Broadway versus Broadway productions

In addition to numerous script tweaks, the musical arrangements for several songs were updated for the Broadway production. "Itzik's Lullaby", for example, was changed from a solo piece to a partial duet with Camal singing in Arabic.[14]

Musical numbers

Based on the tracklist from the cast recording released on December 15, 2017

  • "Overture" – The Band
  • "Waiting" – The Residents of Bet Hatikva
  • "Welcome to Nowhere" – Dina, Itzik, Papi
  • "It Is What It Is" – Dina
  • "Beat Of Your Heart" – Avrum, Itzik, Simon, Camal
  • "Soraya" – The Band (added for Broadway, replacing "Aziza")
  • "Omar Sharif" – Dina
  • "Haj-Butrus" – The Band
  • "Papi Hears the Ocean" – Papi
  • "Haled's Song About Love" – Haled, Papi
  • "The Park" (Dialogue Track) – Dina, Tewfiq
  • "Itgara'a" – Tewfiq
  • "Something Different" – Dina, Tewfiq
  • "Itzik's Lullaby" – Itzik and Camal (Camal added for Broadway)
  • "Something Different" (Reprise) – Dina
  • "Answer Me" – Telephone Guy and Ensemble
  • "The Concert" – The Band

In addition, Boney M.'s cover of "Sunny" is heard in the roller rink, and Rodgers and Hart's "My Funny Valentine" is performed by Haled on the trumpet in the style of Chet Baker.

Characters and original cast

Character Off Broadway (2016)[15] Broadway (2017)[8] First National Tour (2019)
Dina Katrina Lenk Chilina Kennedy
Tewfiq Zakaria Tony Shalhoub Sasson Gabai
Itzik John Cariani Pomme Koch
Haled Ari'el Stachel Joe Joseph
Camal George Abud Ronnie Malley
Papi Daniel David Stewart Etai Benson[16] Adam Gabai
Telephone Guy Erik Liberman Adam Kantor[16] Mike Cefalo
Zelger Bill Army Or Schraiber
Avrum Andrew Polk David Studwell
Julia Rachel Prather Sarah Kapner
Sammy Jonathan Raviv Marc Ginsburg
Anna Sharone Sayegh Jennifer Apple
Iris Kristen Sieh Kendal Hartse
Simon Alok Tewari James Rana


Critical response

In the review of the Off-Broadway production, the Huffington Post called the musical "exquisite", noting that Itamar Moses and David Yazbek have "created a small, touching show... [with] character depth and strong sense of place."[6]

According to Forbes, by October 2017, the Broadway show was "making a great impression" with critics with its first seven performances.[19] The Broadway production, which featured a revised script and score, was praised by the Twin Cities Arts Reader as "one of the best new musicals of the year, gifted with a beautiful score and touching performances."[20] The New York Times said it was "one of the most ravishing musicals you will ever be seduced by," and also "a Broadway rarity seldom found these days outside of the canon of Stephen Sondheim: an honest-to-God musical for grown-ups." It also praised the adaptation for the bigger stage, due to an "impeccably coordinated creative team."[21] Deadline also gave the musical a positive review. The review's only criticism was that seating at a far distance in the new theater made the sound somewhat muddled and sight lines limited.[22]

The Chicago Tribune gave the "weird new Broadway musical" a very positive review and said it was a "remarkable and boundlessly compassionate and humanistic piece of theater."[23] Tablet Magazine thought it was "terrific."[24] Entertainment Weekly also reviewed The Band's Visit positively, praising Katrina Lenk's portrayal of the cafe owner Dina as "dazzling." It gave the production an A-, and said it is "understated, probably better described as charming than life-altering, but its scale reinforces the moral themes of the musical itself."[25] The Washington Post observed that "producers unaffiliated with the show say they are heartened by its run," as the "almost minimalist" production was doing well despite not having what seemed to be "a lot of overt commercial potential."[26]


The show has had a positive impact on Middle-Eastern actors and audiences, as many feel represented by the authentic characters that are not negative stereotypes.[27][28] Ari’el Stachel who plays Haled, acknowledges this in his speech after winning the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical: “For so many years of my life I pretended I was not a Middle Eastern person. […] I am part of a cast of actors who never believed that they'd be able to portray their own races and we are doing that. And not only that but we're getting messages from kids all over the Middle East thanking us and telling us how transformative our representation is for them. […] I want any kid that's watching to know that your biggest obstacle may turn into your purpose." [29]

Awards and honors

Original Off-Broadway production

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
Drama Desk Awards[30][31] Outstanding Book of a Musical Itamar Moses Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Musical David Cromer Won
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Ari'el Stachel Nominated
Outstanding Lyrics David Yazbek Won
Outstanding Music David Yazbek Won
Outstanding Musical Nominated
Outstanding Orchestrations Jamshied Sharifi Nominated
Lucille Lortel Awards[32] Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical Katrina Lenk Won
Outstanding Costume Design Sarah Laux Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Ari’el Stachel Nominated
Outstanding Musical Won
New York Drama Critics Circle Award[33] Best Musical Won
Outer Critics Circle Awards[34] Outstanding Actor in a Musical Tony Shalhoub Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Katrina Lenk Nominated
Outstanding Book of a Musical (Broadway or Off-Broadway) Itamar Moses Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Musical David Cromer Nominated
Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical Won
Outstanding New Score (Broadway or Off-Broadway) David Yazbek Won
Outstanding Orchestrations (Broadway or Off-Broadway) Jamshied Sharifi Nominated
Theatre World Award[35] Dorothy Loudon Award for Excellence in the Theater Katrina Lenk Won
Off-Broadway Alliance Awards[36] Outstanding Musical Nominated
Obie Award[37] Obie Award for Musical Theatre Itamar Moses (book) and David Yazbek (music & lyrics) Won
Obie Award for Directing David Cromer Won

Original Broadway production

Year Award Category Nominee Result
Tony Award Best Musical Won
Best Actor in a Musical Tony Shalhoub Won
Best Actress in a Musical Katrina Lenk Won
Best Featured Actor in a Musical Ari'el Stachel Won
Best Direction of a Musical David Cromer Won
Best Book of a Musical Itamar Moses Won
Best Original Score David Yazbek Won
Best Orchestrations Jamshied Sharifi Won
Best Scenic Design in a Musical Scott Pask Nominated
Best Lighting Design in a Musical Tyler Micoleau Won
Best Sound Design in a Musical Kai Harada Won
Drama League Award Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Musical Won
Distinguished Performance Award Katrina Lenk Nominated
Tony Shalhoub Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical Kai Harada Won
Grammy Award Best Musical Theater Album Won
Daytime Emmy Award Outstanding Musical Performance in a Daytime Program The Cast of The Band's Visit on Today Won


  1. "61st Annual GRAMMY Awards". 2018-12-06. Retrieved 2019-02-10.
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  3. Clement, Olivia. "What Do Critics Think of 'The Band’s Visit' ?" Playbill, December 9, 2016
  4. BWW News Desk. " 'The Band's Visit', Starring Tony Shalhoub, Katrina Lenk and More, Opens Tonight at the Atlantic", December 8, 2016
  5. Stasio, Marilyn. "Off Broadway Review: ‘The Band’s Visit’ Starring Tony Shalhoub" Variety, December 9, 2016
  6. Caggiano, Christopher. "The Quiet, Exquisite Intensity of 'The Band’s Visit' " Huffington Post, January 2, 2017
  7. Clement, Olivia. "Adam Kantor and More Join 'The Band’s Visit' on Broadway" Playbill, August 7, 2017
  8. Vine, Hannah."Meet the Cast of 'The Band’s Visit' on Broadway" Playbill, September 15, 2017
  9. Piepenburg, Eric. " 'The Band’s Visit' to Open on Broadway" The New York Times, May 24, 2017
  10. "Official Press Release"
  11. Clement, Olivia. " 'The Band’s Visit' Closes on Broadway April 7" Playbill, April 7, 2019
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  14. Considine, Basil (30 September 2017). "INTERVIEW: Actor-Playwright John Cariani On The Band's Visit, The Final Frontier, And More". Twin Cities Arts Reader. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  15. "The Cast". Lortel. 4 June 2017. Retrieved 4 June 2016.
  16. Clement, Olivia (August 7, 2017). "Adam Kantor and More Join The Band's Visit on Broadway". Playbill. Retrieved September 30, 2017.
  17. "Sasson Gabay, Star of The Band's Visit Film, Will Step Into the Tony-Winning Musical | Playbill". Playbill. Retrieved 2018-06-11.
  18. "Brandon Uranowitz to Join Broadway's The Band's Visit | Playbill". Playbill. Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  19. "The Band's Visit Starts Strong on Broadway as Bette Midler Breaks Yet Another Record", Forbes, October 17, 2017
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  21. Brantley, Ben (November 9, 2017), Review: ‘The Band’s Visit’ Is a Ravishing Musical That Whispers With Romance, The New York Times, retrieved December 5, 2017
  22. Gerard, Jeremy (November 9, 2017), "Review: Last Season's Best Musical 'The Band's Visit' Re-Opens On Broadway; 'Office Hour' At The Public", Deadline Hollywood, retrieved December 5, 2017
  23. Jones, Chris (November 9, 2017), Review: In 'The Band’s Visit' on Broadway, a cultural divide comes to a small Israeli town, Chicago Tribune, retrieved December 5, 2017
  24. Miller, Judith (November 2017), The Band’s Visit’ Is Terrific Musical Theater. Go See It., Tablet, retrieved December 5, 2017
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  26. Zeitchik, Steven (November 14, 2017), How a slow-going musical could save the old soul of Broadway, The Washington Post, retrieved December 5, 2017
  27. Burack, Emily (2018-09-26). "'The Band's Visit' Star Sharone Sayegh Tells Us About the Power of Representation". Alma. Retrieved 2019-05-26.
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  29. "Read Ari'el Stachel's full Tony acceptance speech". 2018-06-10. Retrieved 2019-05-26.
  30. Cox, Gordon. "Drama Desk Awards 2017: Bette Midler, ‘Oslo’ Take Top Honors" Variety, June 4, 2017
  31. McPhee, Ryan. "2017 Drama Desk Awards Presented June 4" Playbill, June 4, 2017
  32. Hetrick, Adam. "Ben Platt, 'The Band’s Visit', and 'Oslo' Take Top Honors at 2017 Lucille Lortel Awards" Playbill, May 2, 2017
  33. Staff. " 'Oslo' & 'The Band's Visit' Win 2017 New York Drama Critics' Circle Awards", May 8, 2017
  34. Hetrick, Adam. "Bette Midler, 'Come From Away', and 'The Band’s Visit' Win Outer Critics Circle Awards" Playbill, May 8, 2017
  35. Clement, Olivia. "Josh Groban, Eva Noblezada, and More Among 2017 Theatre World Award Honorees" Playbill, May 11, 2017
  36. News Desk. " 'Ernest Shackleton Loves Me' and 'Indecent' Top 2017 Off Broadway Alliance Awards; Winners Announced!", May 16, 2017
  37. Gans, Andrew. " 'Oslo' and 'The Band's Visi't Among 2017 Obie Award Winners" Playbill, May 22, 2017
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