The multi-award-winning musical, The Bands Visit, headed to Donmar Warehouse for its European premiere. With music and lyrics by David Yazbek and book by Itamar Moses, this stage musical is an absolute joy to experience!

© Marc Brenner

The story begins with an Egyptian Police Band scheduled to play a concert in Israel. Due to a language mix-up, they find themselves stranded in a remote Israeli town. The band, led by Tewfiq (Alon Moni Aboutboul) arrive at a café, meeting the owner, Dina (Miri Mesika) and locals, who kindly welcome them into their homes. As the evening goes on, the Alexandria Police Orchestra form surprising bonds with the locals. Stories of love, family and most of all, music surround the characters. The night brings joy, sorrow, and heartfelt moments in the most unexpected ways.

In the beginning, a video projection message appears and describes the events in this town as ‘not being very important’. In my opinion, this musical felt important, showcasing the meaningful connections between humans. It was incredibly engaging; seeing these contrasting characters interact and reveal shared emotions is heart-warming to see.

The 90-minute run time ensured the cast show their full potential. There are strong vocal performances from all, accompanied by the most incredible musical arrangement from the onstage band, who also had considerable acting scenes.  

The staging is minimal, with a revolving stage, telephone stand and a set of steps, which the band perform on. Michael Longhurst’s direction, paired with Soutra Gilmour’s stage design, makes the performance feel intimate. The scenes seamlessly flow into the next, completely captivating the audience.

Charming band member, Haled (Sharif Afifi) joined a roller disco double date, encouraging Papi (Harel Glazer) to overcome his shyness. A family and a clarinettist simultaneously help one another with the gift of a clarinet lullaby, while humorous scenes between ‘Telephone Guy’ and violinist, Camal (Ashley Margolis and Carlos Mendoza De Hevia) also take place during the night.

© Marc Brenner

Mesika as Dina is a standout from the moment she enters the stage. The charismatic, quick-witted Dina becomes close with the band’s leader. Tewfiq’s authoritative and reserved exterior, often slips, revealing a shy and gentle nature about him. Dina confesses her adoration for Arabic culture and music, during the poetic number, ‘Omar Sharif’. Mesika’s velvety vocals are enchanting and I couldn’t take my eyes away. 

The soft, subtle lighting by Anna Watson, complements the tender act, whereby Tewfiq demonstrates the power of conducting an orchestra. As he and Dina move through the motions, their movements feel incredibly poignant.

The interludes are filled with passionate arrangements from the orchestra. Particularly Andy Findon’s saxophone performance and an amazing drum solo from Ant Romero, both generated applause from the audience.

The Band’s Visit is unconventional to any musical I have ever seen. It features a stunning fusion of musical theatre, jazz and traditional Middle Eastern music and is a celebration of culture. It encapsulates the normality of humans in such a funny and beautiful way. The show displays the power of music and its ability to bring us together. The entire cast deliver outstanding performances. I enjoyed being immersed in the world of this little town.

I also love how the representation of the Middle East breaks the bias often shown in the media. As Dr Lina Khatib said, the musical ‘beckons the viewer to see and feel that alternative scenarios to the simplistic binaries that dominate the media and political debate in this context are possible to imagine.”

The Band’s Visit is a heart-warming show, with music at its core. A musical I will always remember!

Rating: 5 out of 5.
The Band’s VisitDonmar WarehouseUntil the 3rd of December


{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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