The 2018 Tony Award winner for Best Musical, ‘The Band’s Visit” has closed in New York and New York’s loss is Chicago’s gain. The only bit of bad news in this report is the “Band” will only be in town at the Cadillac Palace Theatre until September 15.

This winner of ten Tony Awards, including Best Musical, is an adaptation of a 2007 Israeli film of the same name. The story is a simple one and its simplicity remains in the stage adaptation by Itamar Moses. An Egyptian police band arrives in Israel to play at an Arab cultural center, only to find no one has come to direct them to the correct location.

Their night in a wrong town becomes a special night for everyone.

One of the special qualities Eran Kolirin’s 2007 film had was the performance of Sasson Gabay as the band’s leader. This Bagdad born Jewish actor has a face that paints pictures and his low-keyed emotions eased off the screen and into your heart. In June of 2018, he replaced tony Award Winner Tony Shalhoub on Broadway and resumed his film role in front of live audiences. The magic continued.

The good news for local theatergoers is that Sasson Gabay continues in this critical role on the national tour, and his magic is very much present. His subtle shadings of facial gestures and his seemingly matter-of-fact conversations are loaded with a huge range emotions and feelings. His scenes with Dina, played by the wonderful Chilina Kennedy, have an innocent and emotional awkwardness that really tugs at your heartstrings.

And then there is Chilina Kennedy as Dina, the cafe owner who befriends the misplaced band. Her flow of sensual images is matched with her comedic and dramatic delivery.

And, when this great voice sings everybody listens. The “Omar Sharif” song alone is worth the price of admission and should win her a citation from the Omar Sharif estate.

David Yazbek has a history of integrating his songs seamlessly into the flow of the narrative with such credits as “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and “Tootsie” and he has done it again with “The Band’s Visit”. His songs flow effortlessly into the story and he works the band, who really are musicians, into the music and the story wonderfully.

Skokie native David Cromer, whose superlative Chicago productions have graced local stages for years, returns to Chicago with his New York triumph and Tony Award for Best Director. The overall excellence of this cast and production is surely a testimonial that the American Theatre Wing got the 2018 Tony Award right.

For further information go to The Cadillac Palace Theatre is at 151 West Randolph Street in the heart of Chicago’s Loop.

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Jeff Nelson

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