“The Band’s Visit” highlights the struggle and importance of connection

Photo courtesy of The Huntington Theater; photo by T. Charles Erickson.

By Kendall Claar

The band has arrived in Boston!

Premiering November 10 at The Huntington Theater, “The Band’s Visit” forges connections both on and off the stage. This particular production is co-produced with SpeakEasy Stage.

Photo courtesy of The Huntington Theater; photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Adapted from the 2007 film of the same name, the musical tells the story of an Egyptian band of musicians that become stranded in the small Israeli town of Bet Hatikvah following a transportation mix-up. With no lodgings, the locals take them in for the night, and by the next day, surprising connections have been made and new friendships formed.

In a time of heavy foreign conflicts, “The Band’s Visit” demonstrates the importance of building connections across cultures and how easy it is to find common ground in the art we consume and in shared life experiences.

The show cements itself early on as one with a lot of laughs. After the first few lines are exchanged in Arabic, a member of the band says, “Maybe we should speak English,” subtly acknowledging the audience. This is shortly followed by Haled (Kareem Elsamadicy) asking a woman he meets if she likes Chet Baker, before playing “My Funny Valentine” on his trumpet – both of which become a recurring gag.

Plenty of tender moments can be found throughout the show too. This can be seen in the tight embrace between Iris (Marianna Bassham) and Itzik (Jared Troilo) as they reconcile as a couple. It’s also on view when Simon (James Rana) says to Avrum (Robert Saoud) in Hebrew “Shalom aleichem” and Avrum replies in Arabic “Alaikum salaam.” Both phrases, common in their respective language, offer blessings of peace.

Jennifer Apple as Dina, the strong and independent female lead, gives the most outstanding performance of the show. Her vocals alone are a highlight for their clarity, strength, and sheer emotiveness. Other strong performances come from Marianna Bassam as Iris and Jesse Garlick as Papi. Although having few lines, Bassam still manages to clearly convey Iris’ exhaustion as a wife and mother. Garlick’s portrayal of Papi’s anxiety in the pursuit of romance makes him an endearing character and an audience favorite.

Ultimately, the show demonstrates the struggle for meaningful human connection. This is powerfully communicated in the final song of the show when the entire cast joins in on the refrain, asking “will you answer me?”

Despite the challenges of forming connections, the answer appears to be “yes.”

Performances of “The Band’s Visit” will run through Dec. 17.