"Then honey in your ears, spice in your mouth,
Nothing's as surprising as the taste of something strange..."
The love-stricken aria from The Band's Visit serves as a perfect metaphor for the show itself. During the touring cast's visit to Philadelphia, I learned that this show was indeed spicy, strange, and enticing in two ways. Let's load up the Broadway recording, crack open our first brew of the blog (with many more to come), and take a deeper look.
The first thing that grabs my attention is the instrumentation. Woodwinds join with instruments such as a Middle Eastern lute known as an oud (named after the wood it is constructed from) in intricate, Eastern scales foreign to the classic musical theatre ear. Solidifying this, the band is always present on the stage as they play. This makes the foreign appearance of their instruments and the style of playing them never far from our brain.
Second, the show's plot is a perfect blend of relatable and simple. There are no turf or revolutionary wars to be fought here. Instead, the show presents two cultures, each foreign to the other, getting along in the idealistic way two cultures should. The show is, of course, not devoid of conflict. Many characters have their own internal struggles to address and do so through the lens of these newly-met strangers. However, in this age of grand production, the show's focus on our humanity stands out as foreign and refreshing.
For those that saw the original production at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, or its recent tour: what were your thoughts? I will definitely be looking forward to Katrina Lenk's upcoming production of Company at the Jacobs Theatre.