The Band’s Visithas all the makings of a Broadway hit. Having twice broken all-time box-office records at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, it is also widely considered a major contender for this year’s Tony Awards. The show’s success is remarkable because it spins an intimate and deliberately understated tale about a group of musicians from Egypt who get stranded by mistake in a small Israeli town in the middle of nowhere. The townsfolk open up their homes to the visitors, the members of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Band; the band players interact with their hosts in unexpected ways and leave town the following morning. The Israelis and Egyptians in the story can communicate with each other only in faltering English, but they affectingly discover their common humanity through the music they share.
You might think it’s like Come From Away, but given The Band’s Visit’s focus on a small Jewish community contending with a neighboring culture, a comparison with Fiddler on the Roof seems inevitable. Four actors from the show’s ensemble cast gave us their perspectives, explaining how the new musical, created by composer/lyricist David Yazbek and book writer Itamar Moses, actually forges its own path, changing expectations set by the golden era classic to become, to quote a song in the show, “something different.”
Fiddler introduces the residents of Anatevka, a Jewish shtetl in 1905 Russia; in the opening number, they sing about “Tradition” and the ties that bind their small community together. Prior to the arrival of the strangers in The Band’s Visit, which is set in 1996 Israel, the bored inhabitants of the insignificant desert town of Bet Hatikva sing about “Waiting” — for something to happen. In the musical theater classic from 1964, history crashes violently into Anatevka as czarist pogroms rip it apart and spur mass migration out of the village. In The Band’s Visit, you don’t hear any reference to the wars and tensions of the Middle East, or to the territorial disputes that surround everyone in the region.
Adam Kantor was performing in the fifth Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof when The Band’s Visit debuted Off-Broadway in 2016. He says that Fiddler speaks very directly to him. “I come from a line of Eastern European Jews who emigrated in the late 1800s and early 1900s, so the story of Fiddler is very much the story of my ancestors,” he says. In Fiddler, he played the tailor Motel, who courts one of the milkman Tevye’s daughters and gets drawn into the family’s struggle with the religion, customs, and traditions of the village. In The Band’s Visit, he plays a character simply known as Telephone Guy. Glued to the town’s single public phone booth, he mostly stands still and silent, waiting for a call from his girlfriend; eventually he delivers the poignant eleven o’clock number “Answer Me.” “I love how this guy is sort of the beating heart, or a flower, under the cement of Bet Hatikva, and then he gets to blossom,” says the actor. “This is what every character in this show — and really everyone on this planet — is experiencing: a fundamental need to feel a connection.”
Because The Band’s Visit draws from the Sephardic Jewish culture of the Mediterranean, Middle East, and North Africa as opposed to the Ashkenazic traditions represented in Fiddler, Israeli American actor Etai Benson says he can relate very closely to the material of the new musical. “I grew up more connected to the Middle East than to the Eastern European Jewish tradition,” Benson explains. “For me, the fact that not only Israeli but Middle Eastern people are portrayed in such a human light, not focusing on the differences but on what makes them the same and universally human, is what I love about this show.” He plays the character Papi in The Band’s Visit, a shy waiter who gets a lesson in how to date women from the visiting Egyptian trumpet player in the band.
Sharone Sayegh, whose family is Israeli-Iraqi, plays the character Anna, whose scenes mostly take place at the local roller rink. She says she feels especially proud to be in a show that represents the Sephardic Jews of Israel. “They so often get forgotten,” she says. “As an actor I can never get an audition for Fiddler because people don’t think I look Jewish!” she adds, laughing. She means, of course, that she doesn’t look Ashkenazi Jewish. “What is cool about this show is how it opens people’s eyes to the fact that so many Israelis are of Arab culture,” she continues. “My grandparents’ first language is Arabic — they watch Arabic movies and listen to Arabic music. I grew up with my dad playing the oud, which is a Middle Eastern lute/guitar kind of instrument. He was so excited to hear that an oud was going to be played on the Broadway stage.”
Without a doubt, it is Yazbek’s score — which not only features ballads you’d expect in a Broadway musical, but also offers a fusion of classical Arabic music, Middle Eastern sounds, and jazz inflections — that gives The Band’s Visit its special quality.
This musical also has a fiddler — but not a metaphorical one who sits precariously on rooftops. George Abud plays Camal, the visiting Egyptian band member who plays classical Arab music on the violin. In the scenes in which he is not performing as a character, he says the music he plays represents what’s going on in the minds of the Egyptian characters in the show. An actor/musician of Lebanese parentage who proudly identifies as Arab, Abud says that it is very special for him that the story of The Band’s Visit is “filled with so many things close to the Arab world — their people and their music — with the characters portrayed as just regular people.” He adds that composer Yazbek (whose father also is Lebanese) has given the musicians on stage a wonderful opportunity by opening up some instrumental sections for improvisation. “I think this is the most colorful and most extravagant part of the show, which is full of stillness and small minutiae. The audience is able to receive this giant burst of energy and love from us through our instruments — the expression of ourselves.”
In a musical in which Arabic is spoken mostly without translation, Abud delights in the chance the audience gets to appreciate the inherent musicality of the language. He himself has two scenes that are performed entirely in Arabic, where he makes phone calls to the Egyptian consulate to try to extricate the band from the mess that landed them in the wrong town. “The only way the audience can deduce what I’m saying, if they are unfamiliar with language, is from my acting. It’s a daunting responsibility and also something very lovely to be able to show the music of the language.”
In retrospect, it is not hard to see how Fiddler, with its themes of family, tradition, and community, has spoken to audiences worldwide over the past half century. And the producers initially thought the show might be “too Jewish” to succeed on Broadway! But then, within a few years, the extent of the musical’s universal appeal was fully appreciated. The producer of the first Japanese-language production of Fiddler on the Roof reportedly expressed surprise that the show could actually be understood in America; he felt it was so Japanese!
Even though The Band’s Visit has been playing on Broadway for just five months, the cast members we spoke to report that this low-key story about people briefly getting to know each other and then moving on seems to strike a chord with their audiences. “We are so used to stories about extraordinary people and extraordinary places. I think sometimes seeing a very small story that takes place in a tiny community can speak to us in a deeper way,” notes Benson. Along with his fellow actors, he has numerous anecdotes to relate from interactions at the stage door with audience members. “Just the other night, I was signing autographs and there was this young man who told me he was from Jerusalem,” he continues. “He was with another guy who said he was from Syria. The two of them had met at the show, sitting next to each other in tears over the play. That was so moving to me. Our show is about these elements of art and love, what unites us and what binds us. Barriers like politics and borders are manmade, and to see a work of art like our show uniting people and letting them find common ground, that’s what our show is about.”
Only connect: That’s how Kantor views what he considers the particularly timely message of the show. “I think it speaks to the human connection on a fundamental level, and in such a poetic and seemingly simple manner. And in today’s times, when we are living in a country and a world where there seems to be so much tension between people, to have two groups just come together and connect gives us a lot of hope.”
Pictured above: (l-r) Rachel Prather, Etai Benson, Ari’el Stachel. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
Information We Collect
Information we collect directly from you: Your provision of your personal information to Us is completely voluntary; it is not a statutory or contractual requirement. Personally Identifiable Information (“PII”) is information that is uniquely identifiable to you, such as your name, address, email address, phone number, credit card number and other personal information that is not otherwise publicly available. Certain features of Our website may require that you provide Us with your personal information, including:
Mobile Alert Sign-Up (SMS)
Contact Us (email)
Public forums (e.g. message boards)
E-commerce (ticket purchases)
Your use of any of the features above;
New content on Our website;
News that We think may interest you about Us;
Responses to your questions/comments to us; and
Information relating to a ticket purchase.
We may use your demographic information for in house statistics, advertising and marketing target information. Our processing of your personal information is necessary for the performance and fulfillment of the contract between us and to provide you with Our services. We will also process, transfer, disclose and preserve personal information when We have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary, to resolve disputes, enforce our agreements and otherwise required by law. You can always opt-out of receiving future promotional communications from Us; see the Choice/Opt-out section below.Information We Collect Automatically: Even if you don’t use any of the features above, when you visit Our website, We may collect certain information about you.
From your Browser. For example, Our servers keep an activity log that tracks all visitors to the website. The information in the activity log does not identify you individually. The information collected may include among other data: your IP address, your registered domain or home server, time of access, date of access, web page(s) visited, number of clicks, software crash reports, type of browser used, session identification number, search terms, search results, access times and referring website’s address. We use your IP address to help diagnose problems with Our server and to administer Our website. Your IP address is also used to gather broad demographic information, such as country of origin and geographic location. We use such data in the aggregate to run internal analyses to improve upon your experience on Our website.
Tracking Tags (also known as “web beacons,” “action tags” or “single-pixel gifs”). Our website may also use tracking tags. Tracking tags are invisible graphics embedded in the pages of Our website that are programmed to collect non-personal information about your use of Our website. Like cookies, tracking tags provide overall usage patterns for Our website that We use for analysis and to provide personalized services and advertising content.
We comply with the Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising set forth by the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA). You can opt-out of targeted advertising from certain providers at www.aboutads.info/consumers.
How We Use Your Personal Information
The personal information We collect allows Us to keep you posted on updates to Broadway Direct. It also helps Us to improve Our services, content, and advertising. If you don’t want to be on Our email list, you can opt out anytime by clicking the “unsubscribe” button or sending an unsubscribe email to [email protected]. From time to time, We may use your personal information to send transactional emails, such as communications about purchases and changes to Our terms, conditions, and policies. Because this information is important to your interaction with Broadway Direct, you may not opt out of receiving these communications. We may also use personal information for internal purposes such as auditing, data analysis, and research to improve Broadway Direct’s services, and customer communications. If you enter into a sweepstakes, contest, or similar promotion We may use the information you provide to administer those programs.
Information Collected By/Shared With Third Parties
Third Parties Doing Work for Us. Third parties have no rights to use any data We have collected on your behalf. However, We may employ other companies or individuals to perform functions on Our behalf, such as sending postal mail, email, and text messages, conducting sweepstakes/contests, prize fulfillment and promotional activities, analyzing data, providing marketing assistance, processing credit card payments and providing customer service. These outside suppliers, agents and vendors have access to your personal information only as needed to perform their functions.
Third Parties with Links from Our Website. From our website, you may be able to click on links to third party sites to buy tickets and merchandise and for other purposes. These third party sites may collect information, including personal information. We are not responsible for, nor do we have access to the information they collect. The collection of this information is governed by the privacy policies on the applicable third party sites.
Social Networking Services. Our website may integrate with social networking services. We do not control such services and are not liable for the manner in which they operate. While we may provide you with the ability to use such services in connection with our website, we are doing so merely as an accommodation and, like you, are relying upon those third party services to operate properly and fairly.
When necessary. We may also release personal information when we believe, in good faith, that such release is reasonably necessary to protect the rights, property or safety of Ourselves, Our clients, Our users, or others. We may disclose personal information about you to law enforcement, other government officials, or other third parties, as We, in our sole discretion, believe necessary or appropriate, in connection with an investigation of fraud, intellectual property infringement, or other activity that is illegal or may expose Us to legal liability.
Transactions With Third Party E-commerce Partners, Vendors and Advertisers
Delivery of Advertising and Other Content
In addition to ads and content that We may serve you directly, We use third-party advertising companies and marketing services companies to serve ads and other content when you visit Broadway Direct and elsewhere on the internet and in other media. Both We and these companies may use information about your visits to Broadway Direct and elsewhere to serve ads and other content to you. In the course of doing so, a unique third-party cookie may be placed or recognized on your browser by such companies. In addition, We and these companies may use Web beacons to help manage Our online advertising and content. These Web beacons enable Us and the third-party companies to recognize a browser’s cookie when a browser visits this Site and to learn which banner ads bring users to our website and to serve you ads that you may find of interest elsewhere on the internet and in other media. Both Broadway Direct and these companies may use information obtained from your visits to Broadway Direct or other websites, and information received from you offline in order to provide advertisements about goods and services and other content of interest to you across the internet and in other media. If you would like more information about this practice and to know your choices about not having this information used in this manner by Our third party advertising companies, please visit http://www.networkadvertising.org/optout_nonppii.asp and/or www.aboutads.info/choices. European users may opt out of receiving targeted advertising by visiting http://www.youronlinechoices.eu/. In addition, we may provide PII and Anonymous Information to marketing services companies. This may include information we received from you offline or online. These companies may combine information we provide (including PII and Anonymous Information) with personal and anonymous information they may have about you, using cookies they place or that We place on their behalf, as described in the section regarding “Cookies and Tracking Tags”. We require these companies to delete the PII we provide them. These companies may use the resulting non-personal information and such cookies for their own marketing purposes, and they may provide the same to their customers for their customer’s marketing purposes. Some of Our emails may contain tags that allow Us and Our advertisers and other partners to determine the types of content that may be of interest to you. Those tags may contain PII and may be shared with others to the same extent indicated in the section regarding “Cookies and Tracking Tags”. Those tags may not be deleted but you can opt out of receiving the emails.
Use of This Site by Children
The Site is not directed to individuals under the age of thirteen (13), and We request that such individuals do not provide personal information through the Site. If a parent or guardian becomes aware that his or her child has provided Us with PII without the parent or guardian’s consent by, for example, misrepresenting his or her age, that parent or guardian should contact us at [email protected]. If Broadway Direct determines that it has collected personal information of children under the age of 13, Broadway Direct will immediately delete such information and any accounts believed to be held by children under 13. In addition, we may not collect or process information from a citizen of an EU member state under the age of sixteen (16) without such person’s parental consent. If you are a citizen of an EU member state under the age of 16, please tell your parents that you are using the Site and have your parents email Us at [email protected] so that We may delete any information We may have collected about you.
California Civil Code § 1798.83 permits California residents to request information about whether we have disclosed personal information to any third parties for the third parties’ direct marketing purposes. California residents have the right to request in writing: (a) a list of the categories of Personal Information, such as name, email address and mailing address and the type of services provided to the customer that a business has disclosed to third parties (including affiliates that are separate legal entities) during the immediately preceding calendar year for the third parties’ direct marketing purposes and (b) the names and addresses of all such third parties. To make a request, please contact Us at the following email address: [email protected].
Rights of EU Data Subjects
If you are a resident of the European Union, under the GDPR, European Union residents, as data subjects, have the following rights:
Right to access – This right allows individuals to obtain confirmation as to whether or not personal information concerning him or her is being processed and provide access to such personal information. It also allows individuals to request details of the processing of his or her personal information, including, without limitation, categories of recipients to whom the personal information have been or will be disclosed and purposes of processing.
Right to rectify – This right allows individuals to rectify any inaccurate personal information about him or her.
Right to restrict processing – This right allows individuals to block or suppress processing of personal data under certain circumstances.
Right to be forgotten – This right is also known as the “right to erasure”. It is an individual’s right to have personal data erased or to prevent processing in specific circumstances.
Right of data portability – This right allows individuals to move, copy or transfer personal data from one place to another in a secure manner without interrupting the integrity and usability of the information.
Right to object to processing – This right allows individuals to object to certain types of processing, including direct marketing, profiling and providing for purposes of scientific or historical research and statistics.
An EU resident has the right to access his or her personal data that We hold and to ask that their personal data be corrected or erased and to port their data. An EU resident may also have the right to object to, or request that We restrict certain processing or to withdraw consent previously provided. If you would like to exercise your rights under the GDPR, please contact us at [email protected]. If you are an EU resident and have a concern about our processing of your personal data that we are not able to resolve, you have the right to lodge a complaint with the Data Protection Authority where you reside. For contact details of your relevant local Data Protection Authority, please see http://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/article29/item-detail.cfm?item_id=612080
Security of Your Personal Information
Broadway Direct employs reasonable security measures consistent with standard industry practice, for personal information collected through this Site, including physical, electronic and operational measures to maintain security and prevent unauthorized access. While Broadway Direct takes all appropriate steps to safeguard personal information under Our control, unfortunately, no data transmission over the Internet or method of storing data can be guaranteed to be 100% secure. As such, We cannot guarantee that personal information supplied by users will not be accessed on Our servers, or intercepted while being transmitted to Us over the Internet. We assume no liability for any damages you may suffer as a result of interception, alteration or misuse of information during such transfers.
We will retain your information for as long as your account or inquiry is active and for a reasonable time thereafter in accordance with Our standard procedures or as necessary to comply with Our legal obligations, to resolve disputes, and to enforce Our agreements. Even if We delete some or all of your Personal Information, We may continue to retain and use aggregate or anonymous data previously collected and/or anonymize or aggregate your Personal Information. Please note that We will not be liable for disclosures of your data due to errors or unauthorized acts of third parties.
This Site provides users the opportunity to opt-out of receiving communications from Us, at any time, by email at [email protected], or by clicking the unsubscribe link in any email communication. The Site gives users the following options for removing their information from our database, to not receive future communications or to no longer receive our service, at any time.
Users can send mail to the following postal address: Broadway Direct 1501 Broadway 14th floor New York, NY 10036
Users can call the following telephone number: (800) 223-6715.
Users can opt-out of receiving future newsletter emails from Us by selecting the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of our email. However, We are not responsible for removing your information from the lists of any third party who has previously been provided with your information or is collecting your information through their cookies. You have the right to withdraw your consent for Our processing for your personal information by contacting us at [email protected].
This website gives users the following options for changing and modifying information previously provided, at any time.
Users can send mail to the following postal address: Broadway Direct 1501 Broadway 14th floor New York, NY 10036
Users can call the following telephone number: (800) 223-6715
In the event that We are, or any component of our operations is, merged with, or is acquired by, another entity, then any such successor or acquiring entity may become the successor to Our obligations with respect to the personal information that you have provided to Us, which would be necessary for the entity to effectively continue our business. By using this website, you consent to any transfer and use of such personal information by an entity assuming control of Our operations as a result of a merger, purchase of assets, or liquidation in bankruptcy or insolvency.