Band Visit - 07122011
Ronit Elkabetz and Sasson Gabai in a scene from the award-winning movie.
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The acclaimed 2007 Israeli film "The Band's Visit" is being adapted to the stage, and is expected to premiere in New York next year.

American producer Orin Wolf and director Maxwell Williams have already begun preparations, and reportedly have offered the lead role to both Sasson Gabai, who starred in the film, and Mohammed Bakri. The film grabbed eight Ophir prizes - the Israeli equivalent of an Oscar - and numerous international awards, and was Israel's submission for Foreign Language film in the 80th Academy Awards, but was rejected because it contained too much English. Gabai won the European Film Award for Best Actor for his role as Tawfiq Zacharya, the conductor of an Egyptian orchestra that arrives by mistake in a forgotten Israeli town in the Negev desert.

Eran Kolirin, who directed and wrote the screenplay, left the adaptation to the producers who are still raising funds for the project. The adaptation is expected to include many musical interludes.

Wolf and Williams approached Gabai several months ago and offered him the leading role, but Gabai told Haaretz yesterday that he still hasn't found time to read the play, while Bakri said that he plans to fly to New York on Thursday to begin reading rehearsals. Bakri will join his son, Adam, a student at the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute who has been cast for a role that was played by his brother, Salah, in the film.

"The plan is to start rehearsals in a few months, so that the play can premiere in the coming year," said Bakri. "I'm hoping to play the role that Sasson Gabai played so wonderfully in the film, but naturally, there is a difference between film and the stage."

In the wake of the film's success in the United States Wolf contacted Kolirin to propose a stage adaptation. "At the time it didn't seem like something that was really about to happen," says Kolirin. "I didn't think he was serious and I really wasn't enthusiastic. I felt that I had ended my journey with the film. But he insisted, and I finally agreed."