There is no better illustration of the gulf between reviewers and theatergoers than this season’s musicals on Broadway.
The reviews for Frozen and Mean Girls were unenthusiastic at best, but audiences are going crazy for both shows, which are virtually selling out in their early weeks. On the other hand, no musical received better reviews than The Band’s Visit, the new David Yazbek show that has been running since November, but is currently only filling 81 percent of capacity. Where Frozen and Mean Girls are both loud and uninspired, The Band’s Visit is consciously low-key, understated and unbombastic. And it is also refreshing and sublime.
All three are based on movies, but it seems unlikely that few mainstream theatergoers ever saw or remember this foreign-language film from 2007 about an Egyptian police band that has traveled to Israel for a concert, but gets misrouted to a small town where the puzzled locals invite them into their homes for a night. Yes, it is the classic fish-out-of-water plot, but told with an intoxicating minor key score and performed by a tongue-in-cheek cast led by the alluring Katrina Link.
Expect it to win the Tony Award for best musical, which will give it a box office boost but a long run seems unlikely as is a national tour. Another reason you have to head to New York.
Hap Erstein is in New York for his annual tour of Broadway shows for ArtsPaper. Follow his tweets @SirHapster.