After 10 Tony Awards on Broadway, ‘The Band’s Visit’ returns to Kennedy Center

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'The Band's Visit' at Kennedy Center (Part 1)

It won a whopping 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, on Broadway in 2018.

The national tour of “The Band’s Visit” hits the Kennedy Center now through July 17.

“It’s one of the shows that won the most Tony Awards in musical theater history (two shy of the record),” Actress Janet Dacal told WTOP. “It’s poetic, it’s such a beautiful human story, it’s realistic. The music in this show is unlike anything you’ve ever heard on Broadway before. It fuses jazz, musical theater and traditional authentic Middle Eastern music.”

Based on the 2017 Israeli film adapted for the stage by Itamar Moses (book) and David Yazbek (music and lyrics), this feel-good story follows a band of musicians who happen to visit a small town due to a happy accident, using music to bring the community together.

“It’s a story of an Egyptian police band that goes to Israel to perform a concert, but because of a little mix up at the bus station, they wind up in the wrong town,” Dacal said.

Israeli actor Sasson Gabay reprises his role from the original film and Broadway show, while Dacal takes over the role of Dina, which won Katrina Lenk the Tony on Broadway.

“I absolutely revere Katrina and her performance … but I am who I am,” Dacal said. “I get to fill this character with my life experiences and emulate women in my life that helped me shape this character. It’s amazing to step into these shoes at this point and put everything that I’ve lived into this character and make her come to life in my own distinctive way.”

Throughout the show, Dacal gets to sing beautiful numbers like “Omar Sharif.”

“One of the most recognized songs, which was actually performed at the Tonys by Katrina Lenk, is ‘Omar Sharif,'” Dacal said. “It’s just a beautiful, haunting melody about a memory that she has that kind of ignites the evening. In the lyrics of the song, she talks about when she was young, growing up in Israel, how they would play these old Egyptian movies.”

Dacal also gets to perform the memorable number “Something Different.”

“‘Something Different’ is one of my favorite songs in the show that I get to sing,” Dacal said. “It’s a beautiful internal moment for my character and her expression of how she’s feeling in the moment relating to these people who are unlike her. This show is absolutely beautiful because the music is what brings us together and forms that human connection.”

The opening song “Welcome to Nowhere” evokes the desert backdrop.

“That pretty much tells you everything,” Dacal said. “They’re in the desert, it’s hot, it’s in this desolate place. Because it’s so stagnant, it makes you focus on communication and human connection. It’s not the razzle dazzle you’re used to seeing on Broadway as far as spectacle; this musical is beautiful, joyful, funny, emotional, genuine and very unique.”

Born in Los Angeles to Cuban American parents, Dacal is best known for originating the role of salon worker Carla in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s breakthrough “In the Heights” (2008).

“The best time of my life,” Dacal said. “‘In the Heights’ was my first audition when I moved to New York before ‘In the Heights’ was anything more than a reading in the basement of the Drama Book Shop. … I met Lin fresh out of college at Wesleyan, ‘In the Heights’ was his college thesis. I was lucky enough to have a front-row seat on that roller coaster.”

Now, her own career thrill ride loops into the Kennedy Center.

“Please come visit us at the Kennedy Center, this historic theater,” Dacal said. “We’re so excited bring ‘The Band’s Visit’ back to the Kennedy Center. … It’s an incredible story, it’s a human story and you won’t regret sitting in that theater watching this particular show.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'The Band's Visit' at Kennedy Center (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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