For a quiet and intimate musical, The Band’s Visit certainly created a whole lot of noise on its opening night on Broadway.
After a long journey from downtown’s Atlantic Theater Company last fall, Drama Desk wins this past spring—for Outstanding Direction (David Cromer), Outstanding Music (David Yazbek), Outstanding Lyrics (Yazbek)—and, now, a glowing review from the New York Times following a November 9 Broadway bow, the cast and creative team of the original musical based on the 2007 film of the same name were ready to celebrate.
But before joining the festivities at Manhattan’s Copacabana, the company joined Playbill Live on the opening night red carpet to talk about the transition from Off-Broadway to Broadway, bringing a Middle Eastern story to the stage, and leaning in to the quietude and pregnant pauses at the heart of this story about the bonding power of music.
“It was clear that we wanted to honor the spirit of the movie,” said book writer Itamar Moses. “We weren’t sure that it would work, but we liked it so much we had to be true to that impulse and let the chips fall where they may.”
As for writing the structure of the show, Moses revealed his collaborative process with the show’s composer, David Yazbek. “He said from the very beginning that his favorite way to discover song ideas was for something to be written completely as a scene or as a monologue as though it was a play. Our first creative conversation about what the songs should be happened after I had written a complete draft of the show just as though it were a play with no songs, and then we sat down together in his kitchen and went through page by page and circled everything we thought [could be a song].”
From there the show became a hit downtown, and director Cromer was tasked with the challenge of transferring the show to Broadway. “We were able to realize the core of what we wanted downtown,” said Cromer. “We weren’t able to finish it, you just run out of time. We didn’t think we had to reinvent the wheel coming uptown, but we knew we had to finish it, polish it, make it built to last, and we were able to amplify it a little.”
Star Tony Shalhoub, a three-time Tony nominee, feels like they got it right. “This material, it seems to fit better in this house in this theatre,” he told Playbill on the carpet.
As Playbill greeted more of the company—including choreographer Patrick McCollum, music director Andrea Grody, and actors Andrew Polk, Alok Tewari, Ari’el Statchel, Etai Benson, Jonathan Raviv, Billy Army, Kristen Sieh, Sharone Sayegh, Rachel Prather, Adam Kantor, and Katrina Lenk—actor George Abud articulated what he feels is the the beauty and strength of the show: “I love visual storytelling … but I love when you can just stand there and create a tension or create a connection or an attraction, or this give and take and an audience will understand that because I think theatre is very much a visual art form.”
“Any kind of creative process or art that we attempt, it’s really impossible to describe in words,” said Shalhoub. “In fact, once you try to describe it, you kind of kill it. You destroy it because it’s really something beyond words. It’s outside of us.”
Watch the full interviews in the live stream video above.