'The Band's Visit' nabs 10 Tonys

The show based on an Israeli film swept the Broadway awards, including best musical.

The cast and producers of "The Band's Visit" accept the award for Best Musical on June 10th, 2018 (photo credit: REUTERS/LUCAS JACKSON)
The cast and producers of "The Band's Visit" accept the award for Best Musical on June 10th, 2018
The Band’s Visit, the Broadway musical based on an Israeli film, swept the Tony Awards on Sunday night, taking home 10 prizes – including best musical – at the ceremony in New York.
The show also won best actor and best actress for its stars, Tony Shalhoub and Katrina Lenk, and best original score for David Yazbek. Winning all but one of the 11 categories it was nominated for, the musical also nabbed the best featured actor prize for Ar’iel Stachel, as well as best book by Itamar Moses, best director, orchestration, sound design and lighting.
Stachel, who grew up in California and is the son of a Yemenite-Israeli father and an Ashkenazi mother, said he hid his heritage for years.
“Both of my parents are here tonight – and I have avoided so many events with them because for so many years of my life, I pretended that I was not a Middle Eastern person,” he said during his tearful acceptance speech. “And after 9/11, it was very, very difficult for me,” Stachel continued. “And so I concealed and I missed so many special events with them. And they’re looking at me right now and I can’t believe it.”
Stachel, who won for his first ever role on Broadway, also thanked the creators of the show “for being courageous – for telling a small story about Arabs and Israelis getting along, at a time where we need that more than ever.”
The film and the musical tell the tale of a fictional Egyptian police band which gets stuck for one night in a tiny town in the Israeli desert. For just a few hours, the Jews of the town and the Arabs in the band find common ground and share a connection under the desert moonlight.
Shalhoub thanked his immigrant father in his acceptance speech, and said he hopes “we, their descendants, never lose sight of what they taught us.”
Shalhoub left the cast of The Band’s Visit earlier this year. In the coming months, Sasson Gabai, the veteran Israeli actor who portrayed the lead role of Tawfiq in the film, will be taking on the Broadway role as well.
The 2007 film, The Band’s Visit, was critically acclaimed when it was released in Israel, receiving eight Ophir Awards – including best film, best director, best lead actor for Gabbai and best lead actress for the late Ronit Elkabetz.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child won the Tony for best play, while a revival of the AIDS drama Angels in America – written by acclaimed Jewish playwright Tony Kushner – was named best play revival. Once On This Island won best musical revival.
The ceremony, hosted by singers Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban, made headlines when Oscar-winning actor Robert de Niro took the stage and denounced US President Donald Trump with an expletive.
De Niro, appearing on stage to introduce rocker and Tony Awards performer Bruce Springsteen, started out by saying: “I’m gonna say one thing.
F*** Trump.” The audience cheered and applauded as he added: “It’s no longer ‘down with Trump’. It’s ‘f*** Trump’.”
The expletive was bleeped by the CBS network for the millions of television viewers at home.
BUT THE Band’s Visit wasn’t the only Israeli presence at the awards ceremony. The Tel Aviv based startup GalaPro provided accessibility to the show for those with hearing and vision problems. Through the smartphones of viewers and guests, GalaPro provides automated closed-captioning and audio description in the form of subtitles or dubbing. The app has already been implemented at several Broadway shows to provide accessibility and translation for foreign visitors.
“We’ve invested years of development and hard work to ensure that our technology makes live shows accessible and inclusive to anyone and everyone,” said Yonat Burlin, CEO of GalaPro. “It is an honor to be chosen to open up to the whole world the celebration of Broadway’s magic and talent at the Tony Awards, the industry’s most important event.”
Orin Wolf, the producer of The Band’s Visit, accepted the best musical award at the end of the night along with the cast and crew of the show.
“In The Band’s Visit, music gives people hope and makes borders disappear,” Wolf said on stage. “Although the characters are strangers to each other with great political divides, our show offers a message of unity in a world that more and more seems bent on amplifying our differences. In the end we are all far more alike than different.”