The Band’s Visit tells the story of how one mundane mix-up changes the lives of two very different groups of people. Here’s the setup: In 1996, an Egyptian police band means to charter a bus to Petah Tikva in Israel, but owing to some understandable misunderstanding winds up in Bet Hatikva, a fictional town in the middle of nowhere, instead. Rather than go at it like spiders in a freshly rattled jar, however, the misplaced Egyptians and rustic Israelis soon realize that they share much in common.
The Band’s Visit isn’t muddled by politics. Can you imagine anything that isn’t muddied by politics in 2019? A lot of people won’t even buy coffee at some places because of politics in 2019. No, The Band’s Visit is just a cozy little musical account about two groups of people — an Egyptian police band, and some Israeli small-towners — who make fast friends with one another.
I spoke with Nick Sacks, a standby in the The Band’s Visit. His job is to take over any one of six roles in the event that a regular actor should become unavailable. Here is why Nick Sacks is a better guy than me. If I were a standby, I would start greedily licking my chops like a hungry mastiff the second I perceived that one of the regular actors might be getting sick. Nick, on the other hand, would rather nothing unpleasant happen to one of his castmates, even if it meant no spotlight for him.
“It’s a fascinating job,” said Nick. “I do have to remind myself that it is a job, and not a paid vacation, as I’m traveling from city to city to go to theaters which I might not even perform at. As a standby, it can be challenging to give a lived-in performance like an actor who plays a role every night would. But the show must go on, so I always drum up my confidence when I’m needed.”
Nick’s confidence ought to be more than sufficient to fill any gaps. At the same age when most of us were hard at work contemplating our navels, he was already traipsing across a Broadway stage in his roles in Dear Evan Hansen. He even played Screech in a theatrical adaptation of Saved by the Bell, which can be considered the height of any acting career. It was certainly the height of Dustin Diamond’s.
“The Band’s Visit is a very special piece,” Nick continued. “Its story feels far more intimate than what you’re accustomed to seeing on Broadway. I think a large part of that comes from our tight-knit company — normally there’s at least some drama backstage, but not so with us. We even have Shabbat dinner together every Friday.
“The Band’s Visit takes place when there was a lot of conflict between Egypt and Israel, and its two groups of characters have to overcome a great language barrier, communicating only in broken English. In spite of that, the characters see that they share the same fundamental loves and desires — and in only 16 hours. People’s shared wish to connect is what really drives this show.
“Fish out of water stories resonate because everyone has had an experience where they end up somewhere that they shouldn’t be. A musical like this incites hope in its audience because it shows that the best moments arise when things don’t go according to plan. Taking a wrong turn can be the best way to uncover a hidden gem.”
“Be sure to tell your readers that I’m from Jacksonville, Florida,” concluded Nick. “We’ve got a lot of hometown pride there.”
The Band’s Visit will play December 10th through 15th at the Orpheum Theatre. You may learn more about it and purchase tickets at hennepintheatretrust.org.
By David Scheller