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God, do I love live theater: ‘The Band’s Visit’ at The Huntington | Maia’s Inner Monologue

Dear readers,

I’m in love.  

I know, what a dramatic way to begin this article. But it’s true. This love has been with me for nearly my entire life. It is not a love defined by gender, nor is it a living being. What I’m madly in love with is live theater.  

Picture this — the lights gradually dim, the overture begins and the instruments begin to play. A wave of excitement rushes through me, and the anticipation of the night ahead fills me with an unmatched thrill.   

Getting ready for such an occasion is an art form in and of itself. 

Choosing the perfect outfit, meticulously applying my makeup and sharing that collective sense of excitement with my friends creates a feeling that is difficult to describe. It’s almost like stepping into a world with no boundaries where, just for a while, we can be transported.     

Having grown up in close proximity to the Big Apple, I’ve always valued the opportunity to see Broadway shows. Now that I’m in Boston for college, I’m thrilled to be in yet another city with a vibrant theater scene.     

Rewind to yesterday, when Theatrely, the theater media company where I interned last summer, arranged for me to see “The Band’s Visit” at The Huntington Theatre in Boston.  

My friends and I began the evening by gathering at The Huntington. I eagerly anticipated the upcoming journey as I began my pre-show ritual of settling into my cushy seat and carefully inspecting every detail of my playbill from cover to cover.         

Now, let’s discuss the main event and reason we’re all here — “The Band’s Visit.” It is a musical that tells the tale of an Egyptian police band that accidentally gets stranded in a small, destitute Israeli town. While the characters come from completely different worlds, the true theme of the show is that music brings people together.   

To be completely honest, I thought the first half hour was a little slow. I’m not sure if it was because I was tired from the day or what, but I found it difficult to concentrate. However, as the story progressed, I realized that the show’s charm lies in its simplicity.  

This can be exemplified in the set design, where the majority of scenes are set in the town of Bet Hatikvah, portrayed in the song “Welcome to Nowhere” as a place that’s impoverished, small and bare. 

Without extravagant set design or elaborate set pieces, the production effectively focuses the audience’s attention on what I consider to be the most crucial element — the band members on stage. 

It’s astounding to observe how such a minimalistic set can create such an immersive atmosphere, directing the audience’s attention toward the core of the show — the captivating music and the talented musicians. An illustration of this minimalism lies in the choice to feature a window frame or a stove top in a scene, as opposed to an entire house or kitchen. 

The smoothness in which these small set pieces moved across the stage was admirable. Every transition, whether it was the relocation of the recurring phone booth or other elements, was seamlessly executed.   

This attention to detail enhanced the overall impact of the show. The minimalist set design and transitions put the story and music front and center, capturing the true essence of the performance.   

Not to mention, the show’s cast was exceptionally talented. Every cast member, from Brian Thomas Abraham, who portrayed the male lead Tewfiq, to Jennifer Apple, whose remarkable voice left me in awe as the cafe owner Dina. Not to mention the immensely-gifted band members, delivered jaw-dropping performances.  

Now, to be perfectly honest, prior to last night’s performance, I was completely in the dark about the show’s synopsis. The sole piece of information I knew was that it had won the Best Musical Tony Award in 2018, triumphing over “Mean Girls” – a fact that left my 14-year-old self feeling somewhat salty. 

To me, the true standout element of the show was the music. Written by David Yazbek, the musical score of “The Band’s Visit” weaved together Middle Eastern and Western tunes. The music served as a bridge between the story and the audience.  

And the songs — oh, the songs! Sung in both English and Hebrew, they were nothing short of fantastic. As someone with a Jewish heritage, hearing Hebrew music made me feel extremely nostalgic, invoking memories of my time in Hebrew School when I was younger.

But what really struck me was the show’s ability to find beauty in the mundane. The bonds formed between strangers from various backgrounds, as well as the music’s ability to cross cultural boundaries, attested to the central theme of humanity. 

In a nutshell, “The Band’s Visit” at The Huntington Theatre was a rollercoaster of emotions. I walked out of the theater with mascara stains on my face. Dissimilar to productions like “Moulin Rouge!” or “Wicked,” which heavily depend on grand sets and extravagant production values, this musical excels through its compelling performances, engaging storytelling and, of course, its captivating music. 

If you’re in Boston and looking for an evening on the town, don’t miss “The Band’s Visit” at The Huntington Theatre. It’s a show that will leave a mark on your heart.   

Until next time,

Maia 



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