Common Chords: ‘The Band’s Visit’ Is a Musical Celebration of the Shared Human Experience

From the moment director Zi Aikhan heard the music of The Band’s Visit, he knew the show was special.

“I picked up a box of blueberries as this song, Omar Sharif, came on. The song was so immediately arresting to me that I just stood there frozen in this produce section in Portland, Oregon, holding a box of blueberries and crying because the lyrics and the melody of the song were both transportive and immediately recognizable,” Aikhan said. “They reminded me of stories that I’d heard my mom tell of her experiences of being a young person coming to America and being part of more than one culture at the same time. At that moment, I recognized something immediately accessible, human, and recognizable in this piece of theater.”

A few months later, while home in New York, Aikhan rushed to see The Band’s Visit and immediately became a fan.

Now, under Aikhan’s direction, The Band’s Visit comes to Chicagoland audiences at Glencoe’s Writers Theatre. This musical masterpiece, with music and lyrics by David Yazbek, and based on the book by Itamar Moses and screenplay by Eran Kolirin, runs now through March 24, 2024, in the Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols Theatre

Photo by Michael Brosilow

The Band’s Visit tells the story of an Egyptian Police Band that arrives in a small Israeli desert town. No hotels or buses are available for the band until morning, so the locals take the musicians in for the night. Under the spell of the desert sky, these misplaced musicians bring everyone together using the universal language of music. 

A year after seeing the production in New York, Aikhan became the associate on the first national tour. As an associate, he imagined what he could bring to the story if he could direct it someday. Someday came sooner than Aikhan anticipated. He directed the show in Fayetteville, Arkansas, before heading to Chicago. 

Photo by Michael Brosilow

Aikhan respects the life The Band’s Visit before he lent his own interpretation to it, but going into his first production as director, he asked himself, “What can I teach this play about itself?” and “Why this play here and now?” 

“I think one of the things that this production offers is a gorgeous magnifying glass on the intersection between music and the human spirit, and music and the words that we have a hard time expressing,” Aikhan shared. 

Aikhan continues to explain the beautiful way in which song and dance in the production lift moments that are indescribable with words and turn them into experiences that the audience can feel and recognize as their own, crediting the work of music supervision by Andra Velis Simon and choreography by Sebastiani Romagnolo.

Photo by Michael Brosilow

“I think the other true thing is that this production is in deep conversation with our world today. I hope audiences can leave this production and be more curious about the things that we share,” Aikhan explained. “I hope that idea of shared experience is something that resonates in the play and that people can wrap up little pieces of and keep in their brains, and their hearts, and their pockets as they leave the theatre and take with them for weeks, and months, and hopefully years to come.” 

Tickets for The Band’s Visit are on sale now, visit Writers Theatre online for more.

How To Help:

Since 1992, Writers Theatre (WT) has produced thoughtful, engaging programming while connecting with local communities through their education outreach programs. Supporting WT via donation is the best way to help them continue to captivate audiences, develop new work and reach nearly 10,000 Chicagoland students each year. Visit the Writers Theatre website for more.

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Jessica Braun Gervais is a Chicago-based freelance writer specializing in health, wellness, and fitness. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from Columbia College and has written content for various health and wellness institutions. Jessica Braun’s passion for wellness comes from her life as an elite athlete competing in Muay Thai kickboxing competitions across the country. In addition to sharing her expertise through writing, Jessica Braun also works as a group fitness instructor and personal trainer. When she’s not writing or training, Jessica Braun enjoys reading historical fiction novels, discovering new coffee shops, and cuddling with her cattle dog, Brady.

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