Variety reports that The Band’s Visit, the Atlantic Theater’s musical based on the 2007 Israeli film by Eran Kolirin, is marching towards Broadway, with a theater and a date (that’d put it in the running for the 2017-2018 Tonys) already set. Not only did the original run receive two extensions at the Atlantic after having sold out quickly after it opened — it also began picking up numerous awards in recent weeks, with honors from the Obie Awards, the New York Drama Critics Circle, the Lucille Lortels, and the Outer Critics Circle.
Marilyn Stasio’s Variety review of the Atlantic production stated that “David Yazbek (music and lyrics) and Itamar Moses (book) have made magic from a slender fable about the accidental cultural exchange that takes place when an Egyptian military band finds itself stranded in an isolated Israeli town in the middle of the desert.” Meanwhile, Ben Brantley noted in the New York Times how this plot revisits the age-old formula of strangers accidentally catalyzing the expansion of the minds and lives of residents of a provincial town (as well as their own), but lauded the show for managing not to fall into the on-the-nose trappings of these plots. “The Band’s Visit flirts with the clichés of such a scenario, and then triumphantly fails to consummate them. Just when you think it’s going to deliver big on an anticipated clincher, it pulls back, and that withdrawal feels far more satisfying than the expected obvious climax,” he wrote. His review of the play echoed some of the sentiments of the late Roger Ebert’s 2008 review of the film on which it’s based:
The Band’s Visit has not provided any of the narrative payoffs we might have expected, but has provided something more valuable: An interlude involving two “enemies,” Arabs and Israelis, that shows them both as only ordinary people with ordinary hopes, lives and disappointments.
The upcoming Broadway production has not yet been cast; Tony Shalhoub starred in the production at the Atlantic as Colonel Tewfiq Zakaria, the leader of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra leader, who were supposed to give a performance for the opening ceremony of the Arab Culture Center in Peta Tikva — but ended up in the wrong town entirely. According to Playbill, the move to Broadway will see the original choreographer, set designer, costume designer, and lighting designer remaining onboard, while new sound design, projection content, and orchestration will come into play in these performances. David Cromer, who directed the production at the Atlantic, will maintain his position for the Broadway transfer, which will begin previews on October 7 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, before opening November 9.