Whn Janet Dacal as Dina sings the lyrics, “Honey in my ear, Spice in my mouth,” during The Band’s Visit, she might as well have been singing for all of us about the delicious and strange new sensations that seeing the smash Broadway musical brought to Dallas theatre-goers. The Broadway cast of the show won 10 Tony Awards and a Grammy for best musical soundtrack, so it’s no surprise that it was a perfect collaboration for the Dallas Summer Musical’s and the AT&T Broadway series to jointly bring to Dallas’ Winspear Opera House. The show continues through February 23.
Anyone who has traveled internationally has had that moment of being lost, when you depend upon the kindness of others to find your way. In The Band’s Visit, the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra has traveled from Egypt to attend the dedication of an Arabic Cultural Center but instead finds themselves stranded in a small Israeli town with no hotel, no prospects and no bus until the next day.
The kind but quirky citizens of Bet Hatikva, led by adventurous café owner Dina, decide to show kindness to the stranded musicians by hosting them in their homes for the evening. Divided into groups, they separate across the small town, and the entire one act musical celebrates the experiences of he various band members.
While the music, lyrics and choreography are exotic and different, the themes are so very universal. When the romantic young Haled helps terrified Papi woo the girl he loves at a roller rink, we’re reminded of Cyrano de Bergerac. When clarinetist and composer Avrum plays music to both inspire a tense family and soothe a fussy infant, we’re reminded of the power of music to bridge gaps. And when bandleader Tewfiq sings to Dina about the estranged relationship he had with his son, every parent in the room held their breath with anticipation.
The cadence and the comedy of this very quiet musical are different than the traditional American show filled with showgirls and belting voices. The Eastern-tinged music is played by the characters as they are integrated into the set and the story. And the jokes, delivered in distinct Arabic and Israeli accents, are enhanced by awkward pauses and spaces when the audience carefully ingested every nuance.
The Band’s Visit highlights why different isn’t necessarily wrong. And in the case of this amazing show, different is definitely our recipe for right.
(Disclaimer: I attended the show on a media pass, and all opinions are my own.)