Musicals with Cheese #114 The Band's Visit Transcript

The original post for this episode can now be found here.

Transcriptions by: Masha Latvinava

The Band’s Visit – Episode #114 – November 5, 2020

Jess: Hello, I'm Jesse McAnally.

Andrew: And I am Andrew DeWolf.

Brianna: And I'm Brianna Jones.

Jess: 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?

Andrew: 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.

Brianna: Are you gonna go?

Andrew: Of course I'm gonna go.

Jess: But are you gonna compliment her eyes and then have her violently make out with you?

Brianna: Ah –

Jess: The Band’s Visit! Cue the music.

(Omar Sharif plays)

Jess: “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.”

Andrew: Damn.

Jess: 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.

Andrew: 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?

Jess: I don't remember that year very well. I remember it being a kind of less good year... 72nd Tony Awards.

Andrew: I mean, if this swept then I feel like it has to be a little bit of a less good year.

Jess: 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.

Andrew: Really?

Jess: Yeah. So I’m gonna read you the musicals that were out that year.

Andrew: What have we got?

Jess: We've got The Band's Visit.

Andrew: Well, yeah.

Jess: Escape to Margaritaville.

Andrew: Oh, no.

Jess: Mean Girls.

Andrew: Okay.

Jess: SpongeBob SquarePants.

Andrew: Yeah.

Jess: The Carousel revival and Once On This Island revival.

Andrew: So, we covered like everything in this year.

Jess: The only things that we didn't cover was Prince of Broadway, Frozen, and Summer: The Donna Summer Musical. And we probably won't.

Andrew: So, I mean, Once On This Island is competitive with this, I would say.

Jess: 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.

Andrew: 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.

Jess: 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.

Andrew: It feels very down-to-earth in like, real, but like, wholesome at the same time, though.

Jess: How would you describe the plot of this?

Andrew: 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?

Jess: Yeah, it’s small.

Andrew: They play traditional Egyptian music? I don't know what you would describe it as.

Jess: Israeli kind of sound.

Andrew: Yeah, I mean, I think they're Egyptian.

Jess: They're Egyptian.

Andrew: 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.

Jess: They just kinda spice up their lives in a way.

Andrew: Yeah. The problems just kind of happen and get resolved. And the band just is there. And that's really it.

Jess: 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.

Andrew: 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.

Jess: There is no melodrama to this, it is just...honest.

Andrew: A lot of shows that we cover that have this sort of grounded tone are drenched in melodrama.

Jess: What are you thinking of specifically?

Andrew: 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 -

Jess: 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.

Andrew: 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.

Jess: Oh yeah.

Andrew: But because this is the only one that's like this, it's kind of like, “Oh, that was a little sweet, I guess.”

Jess: 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.

Andrew: 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?

Jess: 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?

Andrew: What?

Jess: This reminds me of Come From Away in a way that they kind of love the Newfoundlanders’ music and all that.

Andrew: 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.

Jess: 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.

Andrew: 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.

Jess: 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 Andrew: it's a little ableist for actors who can't sing to be in musicals and all that.

Andrew: I mean, to be fair, It's part of the genre. I mean, it's a musical. Generally, you're gonna see singers win.

Jess: 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.

Andrew: Yeah, I think the reason it doesn't happen so often is because they're usually not a lead.

Jess: Right.

Andrew: Like, if the narrator from Into The Woods got Best Actor, you'd be like, “What?”

Jess: 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.

Andrew: 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?”

Jess: Like, “Are we really gonna kowtow to the high schoolers? The teenyboppers that Ben Brantley hates?”

Andrew: Yeah. Which, I'm sure he loved this show.

Jess: He did! As Bree will tell us later.

Andrew: 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.

Jess: And then they never play their music.

Andrew: I mean, the one I saw, they did. I did read that they don’t...

Jess: At the end, they just kind of - They are about to play and then the curtain closes.

Andrew: But they... No, they actually play a song at the end in the one I watched.

Jess: Maybe we saw two different versions. But I remember you don't really get to see them in action.

Andrew: Yeah, I definitely saw a full ensemble band play a song at the end.

Jess: What was your favorite plotline? Because there's a lot of them.

Andrew: 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.

Jess: Just waiting for his girlfriend to call.

Andrew: He doesn't really have like a plotline though. He's just kind of like –

Jess: 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.

Andrew: Yeah, no, it's not. Honestly, it's almost more like a series of vignettes that are just loosely connected, honestly.

Jess: 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.

Andrew: Well, what's your favorite plot?

Jess: I'm not gonna lie. Anytime that the... I think her name is Deni?

Andrew: Is that the wife character?

Jess: Dina, Dina. Yes, that is the girl character played by Katrina Lenk.

Andrew: I do not know the names. I was referring to them as husband and wife.

Jess: 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.

Andrew: 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.

Jess: 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.

Andrew: 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.

Jess: 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.”

Andrew: “Can we get Tina Fey out there to do his speech?” Um, no, but uh, this is better written than Mean Girls.

Jess: What?

Andrew: Yeah. This made me feel more things than Mean Girls did, I don't know.

Jess: 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.

Andrew: 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.

Jess: Well, it’s antithetical to what you look for in musicals, Andrew, as you told me so many moons ago.

Andrew: 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.

Jess: Now, Andrew, is this a musical that you need to take two poops before you see?

Andrew: 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.

Jess: There is no intermission. No, it is one act and it is brilliant and perfect as a one act.

Andrew: Okay. Yeah, I mean, there's not a whole frickton to say about it, because it's just –

Jess: No!

Andrew: It’s just good.

Jess: Let me say here, this is a Patreon request from Kerry Ahern.

Andrew: Oh, thank you, Carrie.

Jess: And thank you for giving this request. It was such... just a hug.

Andrew: 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?

Brianna: Andrew, do not jinx us.

Andrew: 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?

Jess: 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 –

Andrew: Wait, can I record two different lines for that and we can edit in whichever one happens?

Jess: Let's do it.

Andrew: 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?

Brianna: Yeah.

Andrew: If Biden wins, we put the - Or you can just keep this whole segment and they are in on the joke.

Jess: 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.

Andrew: Or I could just... I could just say “Donald Trump”. And then “Joe Biden”. And then you could just edit those in?

Jess: “You know, when President ‘blank’...”

Andrew: You know what’s really funny though? This might get released and they still haven't announced who won.

Jess: Oh fuck.

Brianna: Oh my god. You guys are gonna fuck me over with this podcast, aren’t you?

Jess: This’ll get released and then it’ll be like, “It’s going to the SCOTUS”, which just means that Donald Trump won.

Andrew: It's going to the SCOTUS which means that the mob rules. Burn it down.

Jess: Don’t you go fucking around with this.

Andrew: Burn it down.

Jess: Or we’ll break your legs.

Andrew: 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.

Jess: What the fuck? Like, I don't - What the fuck do you do?

Andrew: You burn it down. Arson. It’s the only way. I'm advocating for it.

Brianna: You have two Americas. One with Joe Biden, one with Trump.

Andrew: Yeah

Jess: We burn them both down.

Andrew: I've looked into the future. And there's only one possibility.

Brianna: Should we take bets though? Like, right now?

Jess: This is going out after the election.

Andrew: 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.

Jess: I actually, I want to bet. I want to bet in 2016.

Brianna: Okay, let’s do bets.

Andrew: 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.

Jess: 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.

Andrew: 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.

Jess: You say that, but then again... That is us saying we're following the polls, and gerrymandering isn't involved.

Andrew: 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.

Brianna: 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.

Andrew: 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.

Jess: 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.

Andrew: Well, that's a coup though. I'm not counting that as a Trump win. That's a coup.