How a slow-going musical could save the old soul of Broadway, scene of “Frozen” and “Mean Girls”

Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 07:55:58 AM. Halfway through the new Broadway musical “The Band’s Visit,” a restaurateur in a remote Israeli town sings an aching ballad.
By Steven Zeitchik, The Washington Post NEW YORK — Halfway through the new Broadway musical “The Band’s Visit,” a restaurateur in a remote Israeli town sings an aching ballad. “Every day you stare to the west, to the south. You can see for miles, but things never change,” intones the cafe owner about a group of Egyptian musicians that have showed up at her doorstep. “Then honey in your ears, spice in your mouth – nothing’s as surprising as the taste of something strange.” The lyrics refer to the leader of the band, a weathered soul played by Tony Shalhoub. But they also could describe the show — a lean, almost minimalist production that opened Thursday =- as its own form of honeyed strangeness. In a time of lavish franchise productions on Broadway — think “Frozen” or “Mean Girls” — “Band’s Visit” stands apart. Based on an obscure Israeli film of the same name from 2007, it has no brand recognition or major studio backer — just an unknown title, an unfamiliar setting and an unfashionably slow pace. In other words, it comes with not a lot of overt commercial potential. But what’s at stake as the show plays the 1,100-seat Ethel Barrymore theater is no less than the soul of one of America’s most cherished cultural industries. As Broadway tilts between originals by independent producers and polished entertainment by deep-pocketed financiers, “The Band’s Visit” could become its great savior or signal its changing tide. “I feel very exposed right now, very vulnerable. We don’t have...Read more
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