The Visitor

Original Off-Broadway Cast, 2022 (Craft Recordings) 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5) “A few djembe lessons and like that I am enlightened,” sings Walter (David Hyde Pierce), a grumpy economics professor who learns to play percussion — and finds out all about America’s cruel immigration policies — from an undocumented Syrian immigrant named Tarek (Ahmad Maksoud), who has been squatting with his girlfriend, Zainab (Alysha Deslorieux), in Walter’s vacant apartment. The cast album of The Visitor, in the absence of Kwame Kwei-Armah and Brian Yorkey’s squirmy book, does a better job than the show did onstage of distracting from the story’s troubling focus on how the suffering of a family in the clutches of the immigration system reanimates a middle-aged white guy, but there’s still that uncomfortable undercurrent. This is a Tom Kitt score, so the vocal arrangements are reliably superb, and Kitt creates some riveting grooves, enhanced by the orchestrations of Jamshied Sharifi (The Band’s Visit). The score cleverly suggests the way that music is all around us — hear, for example, the rhythmic shushing and rustling of papers in the song “In The Middle of The Middle Row” — all of which works effectively on the recording. But there’s little subtlety or sensitivity in Yorkey’s lyrics, as when Zainab describes her harrowing journey to the U.S., in ungraceful phrases such as: “But the price of the voyage was steep/They would touch me when I was asleep.” Thankfully, though, Deslorieux is marvelous. Her impassioned “Zainab’s Apology” and an undulating duet for Zainab and Tarek, “My Love Is Free,” merit multiple listens. Hyde Pierce also gives a moving, committed performance, even if his songs become progressively worse as Walter sheds his misanthropy. (“Better Angels” is a particularly cringe-inducing anthem bellowed at uncaring ICE agents.) He does his loveliest work, alongside Jacqueline Antamarian as Tarek’s fraught mother, in the unassuming “What Little I Can Do.” This album can’t redeem a deeply flawed musical, but the strong singing and engaging arrangements make this a score worth a listen. — Dan Rubins