Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Band's Visit
National Tour
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of Hamlet and Bright Colors and Bold Patterns

Chilina Kennedy and Sasson Gabay
Photo by Matthew Murphy
The Band's Visit, now on tour and at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theatre in Washington, demonstrates that a musical can succeed without flashy costumes, elaborate scenery, or dazzling production numbers if it has heart, genuine emotion, and skillful writing, acting and direction.

The musical by David Yazbek (music and lyrics) and Itamar Moses (book) might seem an unlikely candidate to win 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, as it did in 2018. The cast is small, the mood low-key, and the physical production unprepossessing (although Scott Pask's scenic design offers more variety than is apparent at first). None of that matters as it demonstrates how intimate, interpersonal dramas can be as engrossing as spectacle.

Moses' book, based on a 2007 Israeli movie, follows the members of an Egyptian police band who come to Israel in 1996 to perform at an Arab cultural center and, after taking the wrong bus, land in an isolated town in the desert. The band members speak Arabic among themselves, the townspeople speak Hebrew, and they communicate with each other in English. Stranded until the next day, the band members are taken in by café owner Dina (Chilina Kennedy) and make some tentative connections.

The heart of the production, directed with subtlety by David Cromer, is the bond that develops between Dina and Tewfiq (Sasson Gabay), the leader of the band. Gabay, who played the same role in the movie and succeeded Tony Shalhoub on Broadway, demonstrates great pathos and heart through his facial expressions and body language as well as in his terse dialogue. Kennedy is quietly radiant, especially in her solos "Omar Sharif" (about her lifelong fascination with Egyptian music and movies) and "Something Different."

Music becomes the bond between the townspeople and the visitors: trumpeter Haled (Joe Joseph) shares his admiration for the work of American jazz trumpeter Chet Baker; and host Avrum (David Studwell) tells clarinetist Simon (James Rana) about how music brought him together with his late wife. Yazbek's exquisite score draws on Arab and Israeli traditions and instruments to create a hypnotic mood.

Kennedy Center
The Band's Visit
July 9th - August 4th, 2019
Music and lyrics by David Yazbek
Book by Itamar Moses
Based on the screenplay by Eran Kolirin
Dina: Chilina Kennedy
Tewfiq: Sasson Gabay
Itzik: Pomme Koch
Haled: Joe Joseph
Telephone Guy: Mike Cefalo
Papi: Adam Gabay
Camal: Ronnie Malley
Avrum: David Studwell
Anna: Jennifer Apple
Sammy: Marc Ginsburg
Iris: Kendal Hartse
Julia: Sara Kapner
Simon: James Rana
Zelger: Or Schraiber
The Band: Tony Bird, George Crotty, Evan Francis, Roger Kashou, Ronnie Malley
Directed by David Cromer
Choreography by Patrick McCollum
Eisenhower Theater, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
2700 F St. NW, Washington, DC
Ticket Information: (800) 444-1324 or (202) 467-4600 or
For more information on the tour, visit