The Band’s Visit – Episode #114 – November 5, 2020
J: Hello, I'm Jesse McAnally.
A: And I am Andrew DeWolf.
B: And I'm Brianna Jones.
J: And welcome to Musicals With Cheese, the podcast where I try to get Andrew to like musical theater. And how are we doing today, guys?
A: Oh, you know, I was trying to get back to my house earlier today. And, you know, I was trying to go to Schuylerville, but I asked for a bus ticket and they ended up bringing me to Schbluylerville, which is in a completely different area, like just very far off the beaten path. And now I'm literally living at someone else's house and they're inviting me out on a date to go skating. It's crazy.
B: Are you gonna go?
A: Of course I'm gonna go.
J: But are you gonna compliment her eyes and then have her violently make out with you?
B: Ah –
J: The Band’s Visit! Cue the music.
(Omar Sharif plays)
J: “The Band's Visit is a stage musical with music and lyrics by David Yazbek and a book by Itamar Moses, based on the 2007 Israeli film of the same name. The musical opened on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in November 2017, after its off-Broadway premiere at the Atlantic Theater Company in December 2016. The Band's Visit has received critical acclaim. Its off-Broadway production won several major awards, including the 2017 Obie Award for Musical Theatre, as well the year's New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical. At the 72nd Tony Awards, it was nominated for 11 awards and won 10, including Best Musical. The Band's Visit is one of four musicals in Broadway history to win the unofficial "Big Six" Tony Awards, which include Best Musical, Best Book, Best Score, Best Actor in a Musical, Best Actress in a Musical, and Best Direction of a Musical.”
J: Yeah, it won a lot. It won the 2019 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, and this came out in the same Tony season as Mean Girls, where they expected that to sweep.
A: Yeah, well, I mean, I'm gonna say I think it's better than Mean Girls. Were those the only two that really had a shot?
J: I don't remember that year very well. I remember it being a kind of less good year... 72nd Tony Awards.
A: I mean, if this swept then I feel like it has to be a little bit of a less good year.
J: I mean, it was the losers’ year. Oh, yeah. We got a lot of them. We've actually covered a good chunk of these musicals.
J: Yeah. So I’m gonna read you the musicals that were out that year.
A: What have we got?
J: We've got The Band's Visit.
A: Well, yeah.
J: Escape to Margaritaville.
A: Oh, no.
J: Mean Girls.
J: SpongeBob SquarePants.
J: The Carousel revival and Once On This Island revival.
A: So, we covered like everything in this year.
J: The only things that we didn't cover was Prince of Broadway, Frozen, and Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. And we probably won't.
A: So, I mean, Once On This Island is competitive with this, I would say.
J: Yeah, but Once On This Island was gonna win Best Revival no matter what because it is a revival. It's in a whole different world.
A: Yeah, I guess I'm not shocked at this one. I think SpongeBob SquarePants maybe could have taken some of them, but this is more critic-friendly for sure.
J: Yeah, I'm surprised that Mean Girls didn't sweep because this feels... I don't know how to say – it doesn't feel Broadway to me, if that makes sense.
A: It feels very down-to-earth in like, real, but like, wholesome at the same time, though.
J: How would you describe the plot of this?
A: I mean, really, nothing much really happens. I mean, a band ends up in the wrong place. And it's like a bigger band, not like a big band, but like... how many members are there? Like eight?
J: Yeah, it’s small.
A: They play traditional Egyptian music? I don't know what you would describe it as.
J: Israeli kind of sound.
A: Yeah, I mean, I think they're Egyptian.
J: They're Egyptian.
A: They are Egyptian, but I don't know if the music they're playing is. And they're trying to get to one place but their accent makes them buy a ticket to the wrong place. And they end up in a tiny nothing town where everyone is bored of their mundane lives. And the band gets involved in - I would say the band members fix their problems, but they don't really do that.
J: They just kinda spice up their lives in a way.
A: Yeah. The problems just kind of happen and get resolved. And the band just is there. And that's really it.
J: Yeah. They’re charming and they make everyone's life. It's kind of like Paddington where it's like they enter it and they just kind of charm people.
A: Yeah, it's not like a... You'd expect the Broadway thing would be like, “the band shows up and they're actively fixing everyone's issues”. But like, it's really not that. It's just more real. It's like, this is how people would actually interact. But not like real, like really realistic. Just not dramatized as much as you would expect.
J: There is no melodrama to this, it is just...honest.
A: A lot of shows that we cover that have this sort of grounded tone are drenched in melodrama.
J: What are you thinking of specifically?
A: I would cite things like Falsettos that or have a kind of a grounded tone. But like, it's all melodrama. Like, it's all fucking -
J: Yeah, I mean, I get - And it's surprising. What surprised me most about this is how down-to-earth it feels, how normal it feels. And yet, the songs don't feel out of place. It feels strangely heightened enough that the songs feel like they fit.
A: Maybe what it is, is it's mundane, but, in almost a good way. Because it's short, and you don't see it very often. If every musical was like this, I think it would be very boring.
J: Oh yeah.
A: But because this is the only one that's like this, it's kind of like, “Oh, that was a little sweet, I guess.”
J: What makes this special is the performances, the music, the actual music style, which I don't think matters that much in a lot of musicals because they all kind of sound the same nowadays.
A: This has that world music element to it. And I mean, world music is not the right term in a lot of ways. But it's a Broadway show, so world music fits here, I think. And you don't usually see that, at least not often. And if you do see it, it's almost like a pastiche. Like they're trying to do it. But this is like, the whole show is this, you know?
J: And it feels like it genuinely loves the music and loves the idea of it, where instead of just being like, “Yo, isn't this - ” You know what this reminds me of?
J: This reminds me of Come From Away in a way that they kind of love the Newfoundlanders’ music and all that.
A: Yeah, yeah, it's like that. And it's not like, you know, Indiana Jones the musical or something where he shows up in Egypt, and then they go (imitates Egyptian music) “waaah”. You know? Not that that actually exists, but you know what I'm talking about.
J: Yeah... And this is a true ensemble piece where everyone, even the smaller ones, kind of has a moment or two to shine. Like, last week, we talked about The Addams Family. But that one, I felt like everyone kind of had to shoehorn in a moment for them, where this, it just feels very natural. Everyone kind of has their piece and it's great.
A: I think what I also like about this is that there are moments where they just play a song, like an instrumental, like just they just do it. And I think that's cool. And you don't see that a lot.
J: Also, there's a few non-singing roles in this where someone... Like, Tony Shalhoub played the main band guy and won a Tony for it. And that was one of the few Tony wins for Best Actor that was for a non-singing role. And I'm like, “Can that be more common?” Because A: it's a little ableist for actors who can't sing to be in musicals and all that.
A: I mean, to be fair, It's part of the genre. I mean, it's a musical. Generally, you're gonna see singers win.
J: I'm saying one every fiftieth should have a role like the narrator from Into The Woods or something, or the doctor from Passion. That's a good non-singing role.
A: Yeah, I think the reason it doesn't happen so often is because they're usually not a lead.
A: Like, if the narrator from Into The Woods got Best Actor, you'd be like, “What?”
J: Right. And I'm not even... Yeah, and I kind of like that just because it's something different. And I feel like Broadway needed something different right here and then. Cus I think this is the year that followed Dear Evan Hansen’s sweep.
A: Oh, yeah. And I feel like if Mean Girls had done it, it's just like, “Didn’t we just see this happen last year?”
J: Like, “Are we really gonna kowtow to the high schoolers? The teenyboppers that Ben Brantley hates?”
A: Yeah. Which, I'm sure he loved this show.
J: He did! As Bree will tell us later.
A: You know what I liked about it? Is it didn’t feel the need to become this big two-hour spectacle. It knew what it was and it didn't overstay its welcome. You know? Just like the band. The band came in and they visit and they make my life a little bit nicer and then they leave.
J: And then they never play their music.
A: I mean, the one I saw, they did. I did read that they don’t...
J: At the end, they just kind of - They are about to play and then the curtain closes.
A: But they... No, they actually play a song at the end in the one I watched.
J: Maybe we saw two different versions. But I remember you don't really get to see them in action.
A: Yeah, I definitely saw a full ensemble band play a song at the end.
J: What was your favorite plotline? Because there's a lot of them.
A: Yeah, um, I mean, I don't really know. Because the plotlines themselves are not that impressive. I think the one that I remember the best is the one at the skating rink where he’s trying to, you know, find a way to get with his crush and he accidentally makes her fall down? I think that was goofy. I like the phone guy, the guy who goes to the phone, but he only gets one song.
J: Just waiting for his girlfriend to call.
A: He doesn't really have like a plotline though. He's just kind of like –
J: His plotline is waiting for the phone, waiting for his girlfriend to call. This isn't a show about plot, let's just say that.
A: Yeah, no, it's not. Honestly, it's almost more like a series of vignettes that are just loosely connected, honestly.
J: But it's done so charmingly. And so, like, you just want to be in this world. It reminds me of something like a Miyazaki movie? Specifically, the one I got in my head is Kiki's Delivery Service, where there's no real plot, you just kind of go about the world and things happen, you do your thing, and I love it. I want to be in this world. I want to live in this small town.
A: Well, what's your favorite plot?
J: I'm not gonna lie. Anytime that the... I think her name is Deni?
A: Is that the wife character?
J: Dina, Dina. Yes, that is the girl character played by Katrina Lenk.
A: I do not know the names. I was referring to them as husband and wife.
J: Yeah, Dina, who is the main girl. Anytime she's on stage, I am just in love. Like, I just want to see more of her. And she is not a graceful character. She is a normal person. She's a normal working class person. And it's kind of great to see a woman on stage, like, sit with her legs spread, just in her jeans, like dressed comfortably and looking normal. And a lot of stuff that she does in the mundane world becomes music. Like the scene where she's chopping up the watermelon to the beat of the music, which rings true to something like Worst Pies in London from Sweeney Todd, but the mundanity and the way that it kind of flows in there.
A: Yeah, but with that, it's more of an over-the-top musical moment. Whereas with this, it's just kind of like, it almost makes the music come down to their level rather than them going up to meet the music.
J: Right. And I feel... I'm surprised that this did as well as it did, because small shit like this - Like, Passion. I know you didn't much care for that. But that was a smaller chamber piece - don't tend to do great.
A: Yeah, it's a little surprising. I mean, I didn't know that this had won all these awards until a few minutes ago. And I was a little bit surprised to be fully honest.
J: But, to retell a story that I told in our Mean Girls episode... Like, they were so convinced that Tina Fey was gonna win Best Book, and then the guy that does the book for this goes up there to accept the award. And I think his name is like Israel Moses. Itamar Moses. And he's like, “I wanted to write this book, this story, and it was great.” You just see the people in the control room, like, “Goddammit.”
A: “Can we get Tina Fey out there to do his speech?” Um, no, but uh, this is better written than Mean Girls.
A: Yeah. This made me feel more things than Mean Girls did, I don't know.
J: What do you mean by emotional? What were the most emotional moments for you? Cus this is so mundane and like, there's small mundane emotional things.
A: I think the part where the wife character comes back after the person plays the clarinet, or... is it a clarinet? Whatever instrument that is to the baby. I like that moment. There was nothing like, “I'm bawling my eyes out” kind of shit. It was just like, “Oh, that's nice.” Whereas Mean Girls is just so goofy, and it is cheese. Whereas this, this doesn't have cheese, which is antithetical to our show. So I hate it.
J: Well, it’s antithetical to what you look for in musicals, Andrew, as you told me so many moons ago.
A: It's true. But this is so short, I can tolerate it. And you know, I've never seen it done well, and I think that this did it pretty well.
J: Now, Andrew, is this a musical that you need to take two poops before you see?
A: Thankfully, no. You actually don't even need to take any poops before you see this. There is no mid-show. As far as I'm aware.
J: There is no intermission. No, it is one act and it is brilliant and perfect as a one act.
A: Okay. Yeah, I mean, there's not a whole frickton to say about it, because it's just –
A: It’s just good.
J: Let me say here, this is a Patreon request from Kerry Ahern.
A: Oh, thank you, Carrie.
J: And thank you for giving this request. It was such... just a hug.
A: It's really wholesome now that we have... It's just nice, now that we have four more years of Donald Trump, to just kind of open up with this. You know?
B: Andrew, do not jinx us.
A: Okay, for context. We are recording this on October 21. The election hasn't happened yet. But when you're listening to this, the election has happened. Literally like two, three days ago?
J: Yeah, two or three days ago. My god, you're living in the future where you know what happened, so you're either listening to this to distract you from the hellscape –
A: Wait, can I record two different lines for that and we can edit in whichever one happens?
J: Let's do it.
A: Man. This is just a really nice and wholesome thing to have. And it's just a great way to open up Joe Biden's presidency here. You know? It really, it gives you that wholesome feeling that you need. You know? See now, so if Trump wins, you keep the older one. Okay?
A: If Biden wins, we put the - Or you can just keep this whole segment and they are in on the joke.
J: It's always good to keep the audience in on your jokes. I'm not gonna lie. But it is scary right now. We are currently terrified.
A: Or I could just... I could just say “Donald Trump”. And then “Joe Biden”. And then you could just edit those in?
J: “You know, when President ‘blank’...”
A: You know what’s really funny though? This might get released and they still haven't announced who won.
J: Oh fuck.
B: Oh my god. You guys are gonna fuck me over with this podcast, aren’t you?
J: This’ll get released and then it’ll be like, “It’s going to the SCOTUS”, which just means that Donald Trump won.
A: It's going to the SCOTUS which means that the mob rules. Burn it down.
J: Don’t you go fucking around with this.
A: Burn it down.
J: Or we’ll break your legs.
A: Burn it down. Burn it down. If it goes to the Supreme Court, and they don't give it to the popular vote, we burn it down.
J: What the fuck? Like, I don't - What the fuck do you do?
A: You burn it down. Arson. It’s the only way. I'm advocating for it.
B: You have two Americas. One with Joe Biden, one with Trump.
J: We burn them both down.
A: I've looked into the future. And there's only one possibility.
B: Should we take bets though? Like, right now?
J: This is going out after the election.
A: If we're gonna place bets, I mean, we have to look at the odds. Because, I mean, if you're betting Donald Trump and win, you’re gonna have to win a lot more money than if you bet Joe Biden and win.
J: I actually, I want to bet. I want to bet in 2016.
B: Okay, let’s do bets.
A: I'm gonna be real here. I do genuinely think Biden will win. I think that it's a different situation than 2016. Clinton was extremely unpopular, as far as democratic candidates go. Biden is not extremely unpopular. Trump is equally popular just as he was in 2016. I think that there's just a really strong chance that Biden takes it.
J: And also, I've had a lot of people that lean democrat that said they voted Trump in 2016, just because they hated the situation, or thought it was a joke or whatever, and I feel like a lot of people are angrier now.
A: Trump put himself out as a anti-establishment candidate. And a lot of those people were like, “You know what, we're gonna go for him.” And he has since completely proven that he is not an anti-establishment candidate, and he will not have that vote this time around.
J: You say that, but then again... That is us saying we're following the polls, and gerrymandering isn't involved.
A: Oh, no, no, I'm not saying that it's like guaranteed, but I think that there is a very strong chance. Especially with early voting, like a huge number of votes. As we're recording this, of course, not when this is released. But as we're recording this, a huge number of votes have already been cast. And we're like two weeks out.
B: Yeah, and I really do think that you're going to see a lot of people in our generation go out and vote prior to the previous election. But there's so many undecided states right now - like Michigan and Florida - that you don't know if Biden or Trump is going to take. And I think it’s gonna be Trump. Unfortunately.
A: You think it's going to be Trump? I am really surprised. I think it's a Dem sweep. I think Biden gets it. I think the Senate turns and I think the House stays.
J: I think the House and Senate will turn and become Dem. Honestly, I think it's gonna be a very close election, if it does end up in Biden. And if it's even remotely close, we'll go to SCOTUS. Trump won't accept it. So, no matter what we're fucked.
A: Well, that's a coup though. I'm not counting that as a Trump win. That's a coup.
J: Then my bet is on coup. That is where my bet is.
B: Oo, ok.
A: In my opinion, if it goes to the SCOTUS, it is a coup. And if it goes to the SCOTUS and it doesn't go to whoever had the popular vote, there should be fucking mass riots. That's all I'm saying.
J: Like actual rights, not protests.
A: No, no, no, not protests, not peaceful protests. Like if it goes to the SCOTUS and it doesn't go to popular vote, fucking burn the shit down. In Minecraft.
B: Agreed. Not in Minecraft.
J: No, no. Um, here's the thing. We are placing our bets for where this is currently sitting on the Thursday morning after the election. So, that is our current position. My bet will be: it won't be decided by the time this episode is posted.
A: I mean, my bet might also be to that, but that's only because of the voting situation. Not because of anything else.
B: Yeah, I agree.
A: And I think that in the future, it'll be very close election on either side. And either side will contest it.
A: I think it may be close electoral college. I think popular vote is going to be massively Biden.
J: But if it's close electoral college, Trump's gonna fight it.
J: And this is the political side of this. Study political science, kid. Join your government.
A: Yeah. Well, I mean, this is relevant. In The Band's Visit, I mean, there's not a huge amount to say here. We've talked about it. I think that there is more to say in the music side, though. So if we want to go to a mid-show.
J: Well, don't you dare forget our favorite...
A: Oh, we have the one more segment here.
J: Yeah, our favorite segment.
B: The segment you love to forget.
A: Speaking of politics -
J: Here we go to our favorite segment: the amazing Breeviews, where we get to compare our opinions to those of the New York theater critics when this came out. Bree, take it away.
B: Okay, the Chicago Tribune gave the weird new Broadway musical a very positive review and said it was a “remarkable and boundlessly compassionate and humanistic piece of theater.”
A: I agree with that.
J: Yeah, that's about right.
A: That's a good review.
J: Yeah, that's a good snippet.
B: All right. Christopher Kelly of NJ Advance Media says, “Yet having now seen "The Band's Visit" twice, I'm still not able to shake the feeling that it doesn't add up to much -- and that it certainly doesn't stick to the ribs. (When I saw it again last week, I barely remembered anything of the off-Broadway production, despite only ten months having passed.) Director David Cromer and lighting designer Tyler Micoleau keep the light low and dreamy. Voices, too, are rarely raised, even when the characters are supposed to be angry with one another. The show is so low-key, so determinedly un-flashy that it occasionally seems in danger of sliding right off the stage.”
A: Now, I mean, that's a negative review, but I don't know if it's unfair. I could definitely see that perspective. What do you think, Jess?
J: Well, the thing about that review is it dislikes all the things I think are virtues of the show. And I feel that they had too many preconceived notions of what a Broadway show could and should be.
A: Now, it may just be that... Because I don't think they're unfairly representing it, like sometimes somebody like Ben Brantley will. Like, they'll just go off and be like, “Oh, well, it's gummy bears and garbage.” But that's an unfair representation. I feel like they're saying things that are really in the show. They're just saying they don't like them. So, I think that's a relatively fair negative review. And I can understand it. I don't agree, though.
J: Speak of the devil.
B: Mr. Ben Brantley of the New York Times says, “’The Band's Visit’ — which follows the modest adventures of a touring Egyptian band stranded in an Israeli village significant only for its insignificance — more than holds its own on a larger stage. Its impeccably coordinated creative team has magnified and polished its assets to a high sheen that never feels synthetic. The show was always close to perfect musically. Mr. Yazbek's quietly simmering score, which inflects Broadway balladry and character songs with a haunting Middle Eastern accent, felt as essential as oxygen. But it felt a shade less persuasive in its connective spoken scenes.”
J: Let me point this out about Ben Brantley. You notice how in his positive reviews, he goes, step-by-step, explaining why he likes a thing. In his negative reviews, he just tells bad jokes and puns and just says, “It bad, it bad, it bad.” He doesn't explain why it bad, it’s just “it bad.”
A: Yeah, and that's what I'm saying with unfairly representing. If you want to do a negative review, and you want to be like, “Well, it has this aspect and this aspect that are things that I personally don't think are good.” That's, you know, that's whatever. But if you're just going through and your review is like, “This is like a dumpster fire on a train wreck.” You're not saying anything.
J: A lightning bolt just hit my head when you said that. He is a mass of adjectives of the Broadway theater Angry Video Game Nerd. “This is just a shitload of fuck. This is poopy pants.”
A: Yeah. But then when there's something that he likes, all of a sudden, it's like, “Oh, well, you know... la-di-da” And I think what it is, it's not even that he likes or dislikes something. It's the type of show. Because it's always, like, when he talks about Mean Girls - That's garbage. And that doesn't even deserve to be talked about in a real review. Whereas this, which is like an interesting artistic thing, which, you know, to be fair, this is more artistic than Mean Girls, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it deserves a better review.
J: Well, the thing is, it is trying to get a different goal. It's like comparing Mad Max Fury Road to Schindler's List.
A: Yeah, and you know, it's like Mad Max Fury Road - Instead of giving it a review, you just say it's a shitload of fuck, it's buffalo diarrhea. And then with Schindler's List, all of a sudden, it's like, “Oh, it's perfectly refined, and it has this creative element and...” It's like, come on, man. Be fair.
J: The thing about what you're saying - calling it a shitload of fuck and all that for Mad Max Fury Road - it's not even that. It's more... Let's say we have a film critic that's like, “Schindler's List is brilliant, da-di-da, Spielberg does this and da-ba-da”. Then we get Mad Max Fury Road. It's like, “Well, the strongman people that saw 300 obviously have something they like, but I don't think any professional person would be interested in this bull doggery.” Where you just hide your snobbishness with flowery language.
A: Yeah, and this is not knocking The Band's Visit. The Band's Visit, he's right. It's a good show. Everything he says in the review is right. It's more commenting on the fact that this is one of the first times we have seen a review of him that's actually -
A: Not even just positive – fair. Like it actually describes what's going on in the show, in a way that you can understand what's happening and not just like, snobbish, “Bleh bleh bleh bleh, it’s bad because I don't like it.”
J: Now, Bree, you're the one that has to play Ben Brantley once a week on this show, basically. How do you feel about that review compared to the other ones you've had to read?
B: My initial thought with this one, was like, “Oh, this is nice. This is a nice review. Kind of? Like comparatively?” I don't know. I don't know how I feel about him. Pick a lane, buddy.
A: Well, he has his two categories. He's like, “This deserves a review.” “This doesn't deserve a review.” Do you think if Sondheim came out with a new show now and he went to review it and it wasn't very good, do you think he would give it the shitload-of-fuck treatment? Or do you think he'd be like, “Oh, it's lacking in a few creative areas”? I don't know. I feel like that's the type of review he would give a new Sondheim thing, where it's like, if Mean Girls came out, he's just gonna be like, “It's bubble gum trash and dumpster fire.” I think that it's two different types of shows and he just doesn't fairly treat one of them at all.
J: I agree. All right, Andrew, are you ready to go into a mid-show?
A: Let’s hit the mid-show.
J: Alright, let's talk about Waiting.
A: Waiting? Oh, yes, the - It's not really the opening number because they have a whole scene before it to set up the world, but then -
J: Yeah, they have the overture, they set up the band in dialogue. But the opening number, like the “welcome to our world”, I consider the prologue all that stuff.
J: And this is like, “Welcome to the world”.
A: It's an interesting song because all it's setting up is that it's really freakin boring. And, like, nothing happens.
J: There’s some fun theatrical jokes, like the guy says, “I feel like I'm on a circle, going around in a circle”. And literally, he's on a turntable, spinning in a circle. It's great.
A: You know, we actually didn't really mention this. There's some actually decent humor in the show.
J: Yes, this is like a properly funny show.
A: It's like subtle humor. But that's actually the kind of humor that usually lands with me. Or one of the types of humor that lands with me.
J: You like broad humor sometimes.
A: Yeah. But this subtler type of humor also lands as like a Chuck Lee kind of humor
J: Some great wordplay and all that. No, I agree. The humor here almost always lands. And I'm very disappointed to say, David Yazbek, who did the music and lyrics for this, he did Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and a bunch of other things before this. So, he isn't just The Band's Visit guy, but his follow-up to winning all these Tonys and the Big Six... His follow up musical... I told Andrew about this earlier, and we've already covered -
A: I’m already sad because of it.
J: Yeah. Was Tootsie, the musical.
A: It's just a big oof from me. Like, what? Isn’t this like Halle Berry going on to do Catwoman right after winning the Oscar?
J: Yeah, or Murphy going on to do Norbit, right after being nominated for an Oscar.
A: Yeah, it's just like, “Oof. Why?” I mean, Tootsie wasn't the worst thing that we've ever done, but like –
J: It’s close.
A: It's disappointing coming off of this for sure.
J: I mean, yeah. Tootsie feels like something you give to the Something Rotten guys.
A: Yeah, and it's even a low bar for them. But yeah.
J: I mean, you know what the Something Rotten guys are doing right now and would have been doing if Broadway didn't shut down?
A: Oh, boy. What would they be doing?
J: Mrs. Doubtfire, the musical.
A: I feel like that will still be better than Tootsie.
J: Well, Tootsie is about a greedy man doing a greedy thing for greedy reasons, where Mrs. Doubtfire is a man, down on his luck, trying to get out of a bad situation – through drag.
A: Why are they both about drag? I don't...
J: Because in the 70s through the 90s, it’s hilarious to see men in dresses.
A: Yeah, I feel like it's a bit weird that it's all happening now, though. Because, aren't trans issues like much larger of a talking point now? And you've got all of these like revived shows that are basically about men dressing up as women?
J: Can you name me one main trans character in any musical? Like, a main trans character.
A: Angel? Right? In Rent. Am I wrong? Is that drag?
J: In more recent versions, yes. But originally, he was just a drag queen.
B: Kinky Boots? The guy that plays -
J: That is not a trans character. That's a drag character. He identifies as male. There’s a difference.
B: I know, I know, but –
J: I've gotten the difference wrong is the thing. Like, the other ones that you got, like Frankenfurter? He calls himself a transsexual, but... that is far from trans representation there.
A: No, and even if it is, it's not good representation, because he's a weird alien.
J: And then you got something like Jagged Little Pill, which is the Alanis Morissette musical, which we will be covering sooner than later, fun fact. But that, originally, before it went to Broadway, had a non-binary actor in a non-binary role, and now they just have a woman playing that role.
A: Dude, now that you mentioned Frankenfurter, I'm just remembering that weird - where they had a woman play Frankenfurter and like, I don't remember what that was all about.
J: No, they had a trans woman play Frankenfurter. And I'm like, “No, that that that sets us all back”, because honestly -
A: It ruins what it is.
J: The subversiveness of it.
J: Where, the thing is, I prefer a trans woman to play an actual woman character because trans women are women. It's the fact that we make it so wacky that makes it – Like, if you highlight the fact that it is, it makes the message of them being women less swallowable for horrible pieces of shit like JK Rowling. And I know I'm a cisgendered man. And me setting out a fucking soapbox on this... And I know we don't have the cleanest record of having the most variety in our guests and that's my bad. I'm sorry. I’m trying, I really am.
A: Nobody has a clean record and it's not... I'll be honest, I don't think it's actually that important as long as your heart’s in the right place and you're actually trying to make yourself better as a person. Cus we've said dumb things before, we've messed up, whatever, you know. But we've never stood by those points like JK Rowling and constantly double down.
J: Well, the thing is, it's the fact that the world keeps letting people like that exist and grow and all that.
A: But yeah, it's like, you need to normalize it in a way so that when JK Rowling does that shit, people don't go, well, she wrote Harry Potter and I think she's probably right here. They look at her and they're like, “Oh, but I just saw this on on TV, and it's not a big deal.”
J: You know who else did a lot of damage for that community and really hasn't seen any of the fucking shit they deserve? Folks like Maury Povich and Jerry Springer who did full segments, like “Man or Woman?” and they just bring people up there to say if they're a man or a woman and they're all dressed up like that.
A: Yeah, I think the thing with them - Well, maybe not Maury, but Jerry Springer – like, everyone knows that he's a bad dude.
J: But literally just the other day I saw that he has his new judge show where he's a judge.
A: Yeah, which like wow, no.
J: Like, no consequences, no reflection, no apology. Like, I'm down to forgive anyone that's willing to be like, “I fucked up in the past and I want to be better.” Like, anyone.
A: And you should be. Because if you don't forgive those people, they have no incentive to change.
J: Which is kind of the thing. I mean, actual apologize, not like, “I wrote this press release apology.”
A: Yeah, not like I went on TV and said the N word two days ago. And now on Twitter, I'm like, “Oh, sorry, guys.”
J: “My bad. I said it while playing a video game. It was the heat of the moment.”
A: Yeah, it's like okay, that's not really what I'm talking about. I mean, genuine, like, “Man, I fucked up. I was totally wrong.”
J: Right. And that's kind of like - James Gunn. I genuinely believe he has improved from when he started. Like, I do believe those were jokes and they were bad jokes.
A: All that being said, Mrs. Doubtfire is pretty harmless in my opinion.
J: Tootsie is less harmless.
A: Tootsie is definitely less harmless because Tootsie is almost what JK Rowling is talking about.
J: Yes, that is a man dressing as a woman to stalk a woman that he likes, basically.
A: Whereas Mrs. Doubtfire is just like, you know –
J: “I want to see my kids.” Yeah, that is literally what Mrs. Doubtfire is.
A: Yeah, it's a little less harmful. It's fine.
J: You know what would solve a lot of these issues and probably make it alright for these type of stories to be on Broadway?
A: What's that?
J: Just hire fucking trans people to play roles that are just normal. Wicked’s doing it and Wicked is a kid show and that's brilliant.
A: Yeah, and don't make a big fucking deal about it.
A: Alright, back to The Band's Visit, though.
J: Waiting is a great opening number. Let's talk about Welcome to Nowhere.
(Welcome to Nowhere plays)
J: Okay, Welcome to Nowhere is a very interesting song. And in the moment, I knew what it was doing. And I thought it was brilliant. And I don't think I've ever seen it before.
A: And what's that?
J: It's an “I want” song for an entire ensemble.
A: Yeah, you know, you’re actually kind of right because there isn't really an “I want” song for a single character in this spot here.
J: It is an “I want” song for everyone.
A: They really can't do that, either, because there is not really a lead in a real meaningful way. That is interesting.
J: When it's like, “We're all miserable here”, it re-contextualizes Waiting in a way, but it also gives them a drive of “I don't like it because...” instead of “I don't like this and here's what we would like...” and it's like, a collective. And it works so well, which is shocking because I've seen other musicals try this idea and fail so hard at it because it is a difficult thing. And it generalized it into Welcome to Nowhere, which is, “I don't like the fact that we live in the middle of this place.” And then by the end of it, they find out that, yeah, there is beauty there, and there’s things that are they can still learn, and do, and be there.
A: I think it also helps that the ensemble itself is not that big.
A: Like, they're not trying to give... And, what I was first thinking when I first saw the overture and the opening scene is like, “Oh, no, is every single one of these band members going to be the lead and all have their own story, and I'm going to be fucking lost?” But, really, it's more just three characters than anything else. It's not an entire, eight-person cast like, “This is my part.” “And this is my part.” “And this is my part.” “This is my part.” So yeah, you're right, it does work very well.
J: And it just is catchy, too. In and of itself, it is just a good song that I listen to.
A: The music in this show, like overall, is honestly pretty phenomenal. Like I really - I think I was talking about the story and how that's nice and everything. But really what carries the show is the music, in my actual opinion. Just some spicy stuff going on in here. Just things that you would not hear in other shows. It's very cool.
J: I agree.
A: The instrumentation is phenomenal too.
J: The orchestration in general. Like, I'm sure these sound pretty cool on a piano, but my god, it brings it to life just having these specific instruments playing these specific ways. It's wonderful.
J: Bree, isn't it nice to hear us talk out unabashedly positively about something?
B: Yes, it is.
A: We're doing it. We did it.
J: We're doing it. It’s great.
B: You guys are doing so great. You're both doing it with smiles on your faces. Most of the time, you're like, (imitates grumpy Jess & Andrew here).
A: Well, a lot of times, we get - And we're getting a lot of requests recently. And we get these requests for shows that people –
J: Easy targets.
A: They want to see us rip them apart and I get it. But sometimes we need a little break where we can just like something.
J: Where we can be welcomed to nowhere and enjoy it.
A: Yeah, it's just like, man, this is why we like doing this. You know, cus sometimes we enjoy things.
J: You know, before the patron requests were on, that was my goal. It actually was my goal to try to get you to enjoy this stuff more. And now it's just like, let's do We Will Rock You.
A: We Will Rock You. Oh man. How many times can I say that this is fucking dogshit.
J: Well, ask Ben Brantley. He could figure out a couple ways.
B: Gummy bears and garbage fire.
A: Gummy bears and garbage fires. That's the next t shirt. I can't wait.
J: I want to talk briefly about It Is What It Is, which is the song that Dina sings when she has the entire banter house and it's the one where she's chopping the watermelon and like, feeding it –
(It Is What It Is plays)
J: It's just not a song for a female that you get in Broadway. Like, I've mentioned just her costume earlier as just jeans and a T-shirt, she walks around barefoot for a good chunk of it. And it feels like a human being and I didn't realize there's not that many characters in theater that feel like human beings, especially not women.
A: Well, musical theater in itself is supposed to be larger-than-life. And when you think of leading roles for women, it's always these gigantic - Like Evita, like Mama Rose –
J: Hello Dolly
A: And like, all these like gigantic roles that are way bigger than normal people act. So yeah, this is a bit of a change of pace.
J: Yeah, and she is front and center quite often. It's not like... Talking about Tootsie again. The love interest in Tootsie, who has moments, but she is very much the love interest in Tootsie.
A: Well, I would say, Dina in this is an equal character to everyone else as far as, like -
J: I'd say she's a little bigger than everyone else, because she does have a few more solos.
A: Yeah, you're right. I think her and - I mean, if I were to pick the two main arcs, it's her and Papi, I think?
A: They have, like, the main arcs. And then there's one other with... What is the other name there? The husband or the...
A: It's kind of the same arc as Dina, I think, because they're kind of the same thing.
J: It's reflections of each other, in a good way. Not in a George Lucas way.
A: Yeah, it's like poetry, they rhyme.
J: You said it so I didn’t have to.
A: Exactly, I had to say it. Or my personal favorite, “I don’t know, green.”
A: When asked what color Yoda’s blood is, “I don't know, green?”
J: No, it’s not “I don’t know, green.” “It’s – long pause – green?”
A: That's great. Oh, George. Let's talk about Omar Sharif.
(Omar Sharif plays)
J: So, this is where she's just describing how much she liked watching movies and all that, a very small song. But this is what they performed at the Tonys.
A: I do like this song. It's kind of a - Well, they're singing specifically about a certain movie that they enjoyed or something like that?
J: Yeah, but the star of that movie was Omar Sharif, who was a really big – Yeah.
A: I did enjoy this one. It's kind of upbeat, if I remember correctly.
J: I'd say it's downbeat. It feels melancholic, like nostalgia. It's like when they're sitting together and she's like (starts singing)
A: No, no, you're right. You're absolutely right. I'm thinking of the wrong fucking song. I think I'm thinking of Beat Of Your Heart, which is right before this.
A: No, this one is, yeah, definitely more downbeat.
J: It’s not such a positive thing.
A: Yeah. But they're doing it, they're like reminiscing. It's like a nostalgia kind of thing.
J: And it's good nostalgia, that bittersweet nostalgia, where it's like “childhood lost, but still, I'm not sad about it.”
A: Yeah, no, it's -
J: But it’s not a song that you perform at the Tonys is what I'm trying to say.
A: No, they actually probably should have done Beat Of Your Heart at the Tonys.
J: Yeah. Or even Welcome to Nowhere, which is –
J: But they wanted Tony Shalhoub involved, so they literally just had Katrina Lenk and Tony Shalhoub sitting up there, because everyone loves Monk, right? Everyone loves Spy Kids where he’s got the three heads.
A: I do think that the instruments and everything in this song really does make it feel very nice. I guess. I don't really know how else to describe -
J: It feels like a hug. I think that's the best way to describe this musical. It feels like you're getting hugged and you're happy and you're just warm.
A: What else here? I feel like, I don't know, what song do you have - The thing with the songs in this is the all the music is fantastic, but there's not a standout song.
J: No, they fall into each other. The last one I really want to talk about - and it's strange that this is the 11 o'clock number, but it works - is Answer Me from the Telephone Guy.
(Answer Me plays)
A: I actually really like this one.
J: I love this song so much.
A: But it's his only song, isn't it?
J: Yes, it is. His moment to shine.
A: It also kind of sums up the whole story, though, even though it's completely unrelated on a very technical level. Like, emotionally, it sums everything up.
J: Yes. I love it.
A: Like, these people have been struggling to be happy for all this time. And the Telephone Guy sums it up by, you know, he's been trying to get a phone call from his girlfriend or whatever, for forever. And then he finally just does, and everybody else in the story also gets what they kind of wanted, in a way. And we're all happy. It's all nice.
J: We're all happy. And you know what? That's a great way to end the musical. Like, honestly, I would have been happy if it just kind of ended there, but seeing the coda with the band and Katrina Lenk – Dina - giving the numbers and all that - It's a fine epilogue, but emotionally, I'm kind of done after that.
A: Okay, one other thing to say, though. The lullaby - Why do they add and un-add lyrics and vocals to this?
A: Isn't that weird? Like a song that is sometimes an instrumental and then other times not?
J: That is weird.
A: I think that’s the only time I've ever heard of a show doing that.
J: There's a couple times, but sometimes it's –
A: Maybe, like, the Sweeney Todd movie where they remove the words from the
A: Yeah, from the ballads. Well... Actually, I think I prefer the version without the vocals to be honest. I think it’s prettier without the vocals.
J: Yeah, god, I'm just happy thinking about this show. I enjoyed this so much. And you know, in our post-election cycle that we're living in right now –
A: Where you know who has won, obviously.
J: Yeah, you know who has won, person who's listening. You know the election winners. Or maybe you don’t.
A: We feel a very strong way about the person that won. Obviously. And so, it's very, very refreshing and/or reinforcing to watch –
J: Or terrifying.
A: You know, since “Person” won, “Adjective”.
J: What the fuck? I hope Joe Biden wins, so that we're not gonna be in a hell world.
B: And I don’t lose rights to my body.
J: So that maybe we might be able to go outside one day. Do you remember outside? It was pretty nice. Remember seeing movies? Remember going to Broadway shows?
B: Remember going to concerts?
A: Jess, hang on a second, Jess. What about taxes and stock market? Don't you –
J: I don’t give a shit.
B: And not paying for said taxes and having a lot of investments in the stock market.
A: Look, guys, it's simple. We cut the taxes –
J: Ben Shapiro, here he comes.
A: (As Ben Shapiro) Guys, it’s simple. Let’s just think about this logically for like five seconds, just facts and logic style. Rich people need more money so they can make jobs, right? Rich people make jobs. So, cut the taxes for the rich people, give them all of the money = jobs. Instantly. That's just how it works. That's how the economy happens.
J: (As Ben Shapiro) And you know, I didn't think Donald Trump was a conservative, but he -
A: (Still Ben Shapiro) Donald Trump is not a conservative, but at the same time, I have to vote for him because Joe Biden is a communist, and Joe Biden will take all of the money from you and give it to liberal elites. Which is not what I'm advocating for, by the way.
J: I'm just so sad now. Imagine the possible future we have ahead of us. That, even if Joe Biden wins, he didn't win.
A: Ben Shapiro is now president. I'm sorry, guys.
B: Oh God.
J: You know what? I really do hope that people are emotionally connecting with this or dialing into The Band's Visit. But you know what? What is your overall thoughts and your cheese rating, Andrew?
A: Yeah, I just realized we never mentioned that this takes place in Israel, which is somewhere that Ben Shapiro –
J: It's controversial to have opinions on Israel.
A: I mean, I don't think it's that controversial.
B: I said it in the Breesviews section. We're good.
A: True. That's true. I'm just saying, like Ben Shapiro, that that's relevant. You can't say that was a tangent.
J: No, no, no, no, no, no. Ben Shapiro loves Israel, doesn't he?
A: Yes, he does.
J: Free Palestine.
A: Actually, as far as the show goes, though, really good. I would listen to the songs. I'm going to be listening to them again for sure. Because I actually really liked the music. But if you haven't seen this and you haven't listened through, you absolutely should. As far as cheese, I mean, this show is not very cheesy. I'm trying to find a good Israeli cheese to go with this or something like that. But I don't really know if that's something that's common.
J: Don't they eat cheese? Isn't cheese kosher?
A: I don't know. I guess Israelis are obsessed with cottage cheese, there's a whole article about this. I guess I'll give it cottage cheese then. That's the first thing I've really found.
B: Yeah, it's called like Ireesh or something like that.
A: Really? Okay, yeah, I'm gonna go with that then. And this is just a great, great show. Check it out.
J: I highly agree with you. I did not know much about the show except for the fact it was well received and probably very good. And had Tony Shalhoub in it. And Katrina Lenk is gorgeous and I love looking at her - in the way that you kind of like looking at a painting and not in the way that you kind of like looking, you know, at pornography. It's just like, she has a face that is so photogenic.
A: Jess is just losing the audience as we go.
J: No, the comparison I have is actually Anna O'Byrne from Love Never Dies, who just kind of looks out of this world. And in a way that doesn't feel like it belongs in present time. It is this timeless look to it. And it fits the entire show. I have not a single fault with this. It's a one act, it makes you feel good. You just kind of want to live in there for a while. And honestly, I wouldn't mind another half hour, 20 minutes onto this show. But I also don't want to ask for that.
A: It doesn't need it, though. And I think it knew what it wanted to do, and that's why it's so concise and just does what it wants to do and it gets out. It's done.
J: It's a super confident show, despite what it's doing. Like, it knows what it's trying to do, and as no fears about doing it. Not like that pressure of Broadway hanging over its head the way of something like Carrie, the musical or even the Hunchback thing that we saw.
A: Yeah. I can see a version of this show where there's an extra hour of filler and it's just - it's boring. It's just a boring show where nothing happens. And we come in and we talk about and we're like, “Oh there's some good songs but oh my goodness, it's just filler and boring.” And it didn't do that and I'm really grateful it didn't.
J: Agreed. So my cheese rating is watermelon cheese wedges. Charred watermelon cheese wedges, because she chopped –
A: Oh yeah. You're right.
J: And it's pretty great. Yeah, you know what else is pretty great, Andrew?
A: Our beautiful patrons.
J: Our beautiful patrons! Thank you guys for listening.
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: https://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/theater/chris-jones/ct-ent-bands-visit-review-ttd-0906-20190905-fbav5lvrabguribzjogze5jqdy-story.html
Christopher Kelly, NJ Advance Media: https://www.nj.com/entertainment/2017/11/the_bands_visit_broadway_review.html
Ben Brantley, NY Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/09/theater/the-bands-visit-review-broadway-tony-shalhoub.html