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A Brown alumnus composed this Tony-sweeping musical – now it’s coming to PPAC

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If you’ve never heard of the musical The Band’s Visit, it probably isn’t what you think. These aren’t brassy showtunes from the 1940s. “The band” isn’t causing a ruckus with big dance numbers and a show-stopping finale. The musical is a quiet comedy about an Egyptian police band that ends up in the wrong town, and the players spend the night bonding with downbeat locals. Odder still, it’s based on a 2007 indie film from Israel, which most of us have never heard of.

And yet – The Band’s Visit wowed critics from its first Off-Broadway run, winning 10 Tony Awards in 2018, including Best Musical. The show became an instant classic, largely because of its sophisticated songs, with music and lyrics by David Yazbek.

David graduated from Brown University in the early 1980s, and he has since become a powerhouse of musical theater, making a name for himself with film adaptations. David helped create the Broadway versions of The Full Monty, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, all beloved movies that went on to become acclaimed stage productions. In the wake of his most recent success – The Band’s Visit also won a New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Musical, plus an Obie Award for Musical Theatre – David composed the songs for this year’s Tootsie, which may very well be the Tony darling of 2020. If nothing else, TV viewers of a certain age will remember the theme song to the 1990s show, Where in the World is Carmen San Diego, an ear-worm that millions of people can still hum to this day. David co-wrote the theme with friend Sean Altman, another Brown graduate.

On the one hand, The Band’s Visit is an exciting addition to the Providence Performing Arts Center’s season lineup, given the show’s recent success and fresh new touring company. The story is a heartwarming parable for our time, where a group of Egyptians must find lodging in an Israeli town with no hotels, and the strangers find ways to overlook their differences and enjoy an introspective evening. David has personal ties to the story, which showcases the music and cultural flavor of the Levant region; David grew up in New York City, and his family counts Jewish and
Lebanese ancestry.

The show is also a homecoming for one of Providence’s most impressive former students. A prodigy’s career has come full circle, and we can be glad for his Visit.

The Band’s Visit performs June 25-30 at the Providence Performing Arts Center, 220 Weybosset Street.