The Band’s Visit – Proctors Schenectady
(Wait a minute,…isn’t this the food critic guy? Yup, it’s me. But in my life before this, I was a singer, songwriter, and storyteller for 40 years, and I love the theater! This play was the perfect vehicle for me to write about the theater, a play about a band… sort of. There may be more timely efforts on stage now given the events in the news, but if there is I’m not aware of them.)
THE BAND’S VISIT was the winner of 10 Tony Awards in 2018, it was also the 2019 Grammy Awards® winner for Best Musical Theater Album. The last production here in the Capital District was at Proctors on Sunday last, and it was simply wonderful.
A police band from Alexandria, Egypt was sent on a cultural exchange tour to Israel. When they got there, they were in the wrong town, at a combination airport, restaurant, and bus station in Bet Hatikva, not expected by anyone, with no way to get to the place they were supposed to be until the next day. (We must have had the same agent,…) But the real story begins there, people with obvious political tensions having to interact with each other. The cast treated that scenario with the respect it deserves, no sugar coating and yet a good sprinkling of honest humor. Two notable changes in the cast were made that afternoon with the role of Iris being played by Bligh Voth, and Papi played by Nick Sacks, their chemistry stepping in was flawless.
The score was brilliantly sung by the whole cast, a stellar performance by all, but the playing, both on stage and in the pit is what energized this production. This score was not easy to play, few are, but this was especially challenging with time signatures and rhythms from the middle east seldom heard on stage here. It was a total transformation of a space in Schenectady to a dusty little desert town half a world away, and that was the magic of it. Real, believable characters fumbling through their interactions at times in an honest presentation of the theme of commonality. May we all take some of the kindness and patience on that stage home with us.
After the show, my wife Bridget and I went to dinner at “More Perecca’s” a couple of blocks from the theater, (my review of that restaurant will appear here soon as well.) Not long after we were seated the entire On Stage “Band” from the play came in and were seated not far from us. Bridget and I waved, smiled, and sent over some drinks. Evidently something from the play had sunk in…