‘Band’s Visit’ to Cincinnati’s Aronoff Center is a Musical Balm for Today’s Shock | The theater

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Starring Janet Dhakal and Sasoon Gabbai Group visit.

How did a short independent film from 2007 develop into a Broadway musical a decade later? Itamar Moses, who wrote the book for Group visittell town hall How was this musical born? The musician’s tour will take place from 19 July for a week at the Aronoff Center for the Arts.

Moussa says he received an email in 2014 from a group of producers asking him to consider editing the film’s screenplay about an Egyptian group stranded in a remote town in Israel. He worked on a few musicals and knew it could be hard to work with a creative team. But legendary director and producer Hal Prince was part of the project, which gave Muse the impetus.

“I decided to go to the meeting with Hal,” Moses said.

Musa’s parents were from Israel, where the film was a huge success, and he visited the region several times.

“I immediately saw why they thought it was [a musical adaptation] He remembers. “There was a small group of characters, most of them had conversations in the rooms. It’s a band, so there’s a very organic reason to own the music. It is about trying to communicate about cultures in different languages. Music can be a metaphor for breaking through barriers. I felt like I was the one doing it.

Musa’s interest gained momentum when award-winning composer David Yazbeck was considered. Eventually, Yazbek signed on to officially become the music composer. His sensible chain of strikes – full mounts (2000); Dirty corrupt villains (2005) and Tootsie (2019) – Increased probability of success. Moussa says he made it clear in a phone conversation with Yazbek that he does not want to turn the show into a lavish production.

“I wanted it to stay small and quiet, and underestimate,” Moses says. “David said the same things I thought: Make it small, strange, pathos, moving. We really talked about why we think it might work.

2007 Eran Coleraine movie version Group visit Inspired by a story about the Alexandria Police Ceremonial Orchestra, composed of Egyptian musicians who got on the wrong bus and arrived at Beit HaTikva, a remote Israeli settlement, instead of Petah Tikva, where they were hired to play at the opening of the Arab Cultural Center concert. Another bus will not arrive for 24 hours, so the musicians have to stay overnight. Under the influence of the desert sky with beautiful music smelling of the sky, the orchestra brings the city to life in unexpected and alluring ways.

Yazbek has developed a seductive partition for a show that offers deep appearances while musicians and residents of the city cross – in particular Tewfiq, the farouche director and distant de facto group and City. They seem to be on their way to potential lovers, but they are strangely connected. A mutual bond eventually emerges as they sit in a cafe and talk about the music of Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum and movie star Omar Sharif, whom Dina and Tawfik watch. Dina sings a charming song, “Omar Sharif,” about her memories of Arab radio and television artists who grew up in Israel.

Musa says translating a movie into a musical can be a challenge.

“We do not have the power of a camera to convey emotion through close-ups and slow pots across a deserted desert landscape to draw viewers’ attention to something small on a table,” he explains. “This is where the music and the songs come in. The song is very similar to an emotional shot. People reveal themselves and their feelings when they sing.

for the musical version of Group visitMoussa combines two moments from the film when the never-married Dina and Tawfik Al Waheed share their memories of Kulthum and Sharif. Moments of connection between Arab musicians and Israeli urbanites emphasize the common human longing for life, love, and loss.

The humble show opened in late 2016 at the Atlantic Broadway Theater with 200 seats. To elicit comments, it moved a year later to the 1,000-seat Barrymore Theater on Broadway. There, the show – it The New York Times It’s called “Honest God Music for Adults” – it got more positive reviews and had 589 views as of April 2019.

Group visit It’s one of four musicals in Broadway history to win unofficial “Big Six” Tony Awards – Best Musical, Best Book, Best Score, Best Actor in a Musical, Best Actress in a Musical and Best Musical Direction. His acting recording earned him a 2019 Grammy and a tour began in 2019. After the COVID-19 interruption, he moved again, including participating in Cincinnati.

Interestingly, Tawfik, played by renowned Broadway TV actor Tony Shalhoub (who won a Tony Award for his performance), is now played by Sassoon Gabbay, who created the role in the 2007 film. Musa notes that there is a kind of “meta-layer” in Gabbay’s performance.

Moussa says: “Tawfik’s story is about a person who thought his last chance at love was over, and now he has a second chance. It is similar to what happened to Gabbay who returned to the role years later. ”

Why did this unusually small show go so well? Moses points out that it was initially because it opened on Broadway right after the turbulent 2016 presidential election.

“With all the rhetoric about immigration and crossing borders, many people have longed for a story about welcoming foreigners,” says Moses. “Foreigners can enrich everyone’s lives!”

Musa says this enthusiasm continued even after the coronavirus stopped circulating.

“People always react intensely. “Now it’s about feeling isolated from everything we felt during the pandemic,” says Moses. “The ice starts to melt when you contact people after the trauma we went through. This message was ingrained in the film, and we were able to adapt it in a way that speaks volumes about pain or trauma at almost any moment.

“The antidote is always human contact, caring for each other and opening hearts,” he continues. “Our show conveys it in a way that does not judge or feel emotional. That’s why people react to him.

The group’s tour, presented on Broadway in Cincinnati, runs July 19-24 at the Aronoff Center for the ArtsAnd the Walnutstraat 650, city center. Information: cincinnatiarts.org.

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