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Review: The Band's Visit (Donmar Warehouse)

Review by Daz Gale

A theatrical sensation is currently visiting Europe. After winning 10 Tony awards for its Broadway run, the West End finally gets to experience The Band’s Visit as it arrives for a short stay here. But after a long wait, was it all worth it?

Based on the 2007 Israeli film of the same name, the musical adaptation opened in Broadway in 2017 where it won rave reviews and countless awards including the Tony for Best Musical. The premise of The Band’s Visit sees a group of musicians from Egypt arriving in a quiet desert town. Lost after heading to the wrong place, they are forced to spend the night with strangers from the town as they wait for the next bus back. This unexpected stopover sees lots of surprises that might change their lives forever.

It's fair to say The Band’s Visit is like nothing else out there. If you expect your musicals to come with big twists and turns, this is the complete opposite of that. It prides itself on the smaller moments, proving that even the most seemingly uneventful situations can lead to theatrical genius. That’s not to say there isn’t drama, but these rare moments don’t form the heart of the show and are quickly moved aside for the next heart-warming and quiet moment. That might sound unusual but the results are completely captivating and more often than not, truly beautiful.

Staging such small and nuanced moments can’t be the easiest of things. Achieving the right balance to ensure these are still interesting and exciting to watch and never cross the line into boredom takes a truly smart creative eye. Luckily, the creative team for this production have more than stepped up to the occasion, with the direction from Michael Longhurst providing a consistently gripping watch.

The book by Itamar Moses (based on a screenplay by Eran Kolirin) is truly unique in its approach, beautifully detailing the intricacies of these smaller moments and how these seemingly inconsequential instances have surprising repercussions that stay with the characters for a lifetime. While it wouldn’t be fair to compare The Band’s Visit to another show as it really is like nothing else out there, there can be a slight comparison to Come From Away in the nature of the story and how full of heart the story is, though this musical takes that in a completely different direction. The writing also manages to be regularly funny with great comic lines thrown out and visual gags, ensuring a smile is never far from your face watching this.

A sensational cast have been gathered to tell this story on stage, with Miri Mesika leading as Dina. An Israeli singer and actress, here she makes her West End debut and is truly jaw dropping to witness. Conveying the different aspects of Dinas character, she goes from an uninterested coldness to reveal a warm heart that is gorgeous to witness. An incredible actress with a stunning singing voice to boot, Miri really is a revelation.

Alon Moni Aboutboul is a standout as Tewfiq giving a wonderfully understated performance that demands attention and commands the stage, while Ashley Margolis stops a fairly one-note character become repetitive with a gorgeously sweet portrayal of “Telephone Guy”. A consistently great cast ensures there is no weak link between them, whether they are coming together for the bigger group numbers or the more intimate settings, they all shine equally in one of the greatest casts I have seen assembled on a stage in a long time.

The music and lyrics by Davud Yazbek are another aspect that truly sets The Band’s Visit apart. From instantly catchy to hauntingly beautiful, they all penetrate directly into your soul. Highlights among the glorious numbers are ‘Something’s Different’ and the gorgeous final number ‘Answer Me’ which starts as a solo and builds into something otherworldly. Miri Mesika’s big solo number ‘Omar Sharif’ is another standout, capturing everybody in a spine-tinglingly flawless performance. The members of the band of course play their own instruments on stage, adding another element to the power of this production.

Set design from Soutra Gilmour uses the space of the Donmar Warehouse perfectly, with a revolve allowing for some brilliant lyric emphasis, a use of a screen with video design from Zakk Hein and a telephone which becomes prominent throughout the piece all used to brilliant effect. The Band’s Visit is delightfully charming, with cast members dragging props through the audience allowing the intimacy of the piece to truly transcend.

I had heard what a special show The Band’s Visit was and was unsure if I would have the same sort of feeling when I finally saw it myself. I needn’t have worried. A truly beautiful show which makes the smallest detail seem grand, it really is a testament to the beauty of theatre and how powerful a good show can be. Refreshingly quiet and tender, its relative slowness never feels dull and instead manages to be powerful throughout, with key moments truly resonating. It may be set in a sleepy town but there is nothing sleepy about this sensational show.

Stunning songs, a heart-warming story and an incredible cast make this one of the best musicals London has seen this year. A breathtakingly beautiful show, after this all too fleeting trip, let’s hope they return for a repeat visit soon.


The Band’s Visit plays at Donmar Warehouse until December 3rd. Tickets from

Photo by Marc Brenner



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