Broadway musical ‘The Band’s Visit’ to make stop at Hancher

‘The Band’s Visit’ is the recipient of 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical — the production is set to take the stage at Hancher Auditorium on April 6-7 as a stop on its national tour.


Olivia Augustine, Arts Reporter

In 2016, The Band’s Visit took the stage for the first time, bringing New Yorkers to Israel with a touching story of what it means to be human. The Broadway show swept the Tony Awards with 10 wins, including Best Musical in 2018.

Now, the show is coming to Hancher Auditorium with performances on April 6-7 as part of its national tour.

The storyline of The Band’s Visit is unique, centered around the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra from Egypt, as it travels across Israel on the way to a concert in the city Petah Tikva.

A miscommunication, however, lands the band in the isolated desert town of Bet Havitka with no place to stay, and no transportation until morning. Through its debacle, the band befriends the town’s locals, ultimately overcoming language barriers through a shared love of music.

The musical implements a blend of traditional Arabic, Middle-Eastern, and American Jazz music, with lyrics sung both in English and Hebrew, which helps the characters bond across their cultures.

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Actor Coby Getzug plays the supporting character Papi, a local café worker who struggles to speak to girls, but who eventually overcomes this fear with the help of an Egyptian band member.

Gutzug said that his mother’s family is from Israel, and he grew up attending a Jewish school and learning Hebrew. Having a role in “The Band’s Visit” has allowed him to professionally explore aspects of his identity,  including being able to speak Hebrew onstage, he said.

“I think there’s a really amazing cultural exchange that happens when you spend time with people who grew up differently than you or speak different languages than you,” he said. “I feel like I’m learning so much from my castmates, and from the band, and the crew, and everyone I travel with, just because we all have such unique experiences.”

After previously having roles in The Book of Mormon and Spring Awakening, which are known for their vibrance and larger-than-life music, Gutzug said The Band’s Visit is more “quiet and delicate.”

He said that while there is always space for vibrancy on Broadway that is beautiful in its own right, The Band’s Visit can sometimes feel more like a play than a musical with its subdued nature, and it set his experiences apart.

This is Gutzug’s third national tour with a Broadway show, which have all taken him across the continental U.S., he said. This will be his first time coming to Iowa City, however.

“Traveling to different states, you get to meet all different kinds of people, do all different kinds of things, and go places that you wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to go to,” Gutzug said. “I like being in a new city and finding the local coffee shop that people hang out at and like going to a cool museum and feeling like you’re living this mini life.”

Hancher Executive Director Chuck Swanson joined Gutzug in expressing excitement for the national tour. He said he feels Hancher is very lucky to have been included as a stop for The Band’s Visit.

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“More than anything, I look forward to having this experience — this opportunity — for our audience.” Swanson said. “You know, I love bringing the audience together with artists.”

On national tours, most Broadway shows commit to eight shows a week in a single location, but Swanson said that because of Iowa City’s smaller population, The Band’s Visit will only have two shows at Hancher before spending the rest of the week at Lied Center for the Performing Arts in Lincoln, Nebraska. He said splitting the week is unusual, and that Hancher is fortunate.

Swanson said that the fact that The Band’s Visit won 10 Tony Awards is another reason Hancher is excited to bring the show to Iowa City, and that winning that many awards is shocking and unusual, but very well-deserved.

Swanson has seen The Band’s Visit twice in New York City and once in Des Moines, and said it’s hard to put into words how much he loves the show, other than how it is able to draw the audience in.

“Right there on the stage, we can see this unfold, where everybody has tried to make everybody else feel welcome,” Swanson said. “I guess the human interaction can really be felt through music, it can be felt through food, it can be felt through people just coming together and really trying to understand each other.”

One of Swanson’s responsibilities is to interact with Broadway casts and other tour groups when they come through Hancher, and he said that he mostly looks forward to introducing them to the backstage staff and audience.

“We have one of the most warm, wonderful staffs backstage — and what I always say — in the world,” he said. “And then, that Hancher audience, I love to speak to the Broadway crews, the touring cast whenever they come and I always tell them that they’ll experience one of the warmest audiences on their tour.”

Rob Cline, Hancher’s director of marketing and communications, wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan that he also looks forward to interacting with the performers that come through Hancher, and that the work they do makes the auditorium “come alive.”

Cline noted that, while he was excited to promote the show, there were challenges involved when it came to navigating COVID-19.

“With the ups and downs of the virus, we’ve had some cancellations and postponements throughout the season, and so we have been hesitant to start campaigns for shows as early as we might otherwise,” Cline wrote.

Now that the show’s campaign with Hancher is finally in motion, Cline wrote, he looks forward to getting ready for the musical and seeing the exceptional work that the Hancher Auditorium staff and the cast members will do.

“The Band’s Visit, which has won many, many awards, tells a moving story beautifully,” Cline wrote. “I think audiences will connect with the characters, love the music, and have a great time at the performance.”

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