When the Tony Award nominations were announced on Tuesday morning, the cast of the Broadway production of The Band’s Visit was appearing live on the Today Show.
During the live broadcast, the company learned of the 11 nominations they had garnered including Best Musical, Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for Theatre (David Yazbek), Best Book of a Musical (Itamar Moses) and Best Direction of a Musical (David Cromer).
Tony Shalhoub, Katrina Lenk and Ari’el Stachel are nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role is a Musical and Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical respectively.
The Band’s Visit is also nominated for Best Orchestrations (Jamshied Sharifi), Best Sound Design of a Musical (Kai Harada), Best Scenic Design of a Musical (Scott Pask) and Best Lighting Design of a Musical (Tyler Micoleau).
The Band’s Visit opened at Broadway’s Ethel Barrymore Theatre on November 9, 2017, featuring music and lyrics by three-time Tony Award nominee and Drama Desk Award winner David Yazbek, a book by NY Drama Critics Circle, Lortel and Outer Critics Circle awards winner Itamar Moses, based on the screenplay by Eran Kolirin, and is directed by Drama Desk, Lortel & Obie Award winner David Cromer.
The Band’s Visit is a new musical based on the critically acclaimed screenplay which received 36 major international awards. An Egyptian Police Band arrives in Israel to play a concert. After a mix-up at the border, they are sent to a remote village in the middle of the desert. With no bus until morning and no hotel in sight, these unlikely travelers are taken in by the locals. Under the spell of the desert sky, their lives become intertwined in the most unexpected ways.
I caught up with Jonathan Raviv, who plays Sammy in The Band’s Visit, the day after the nominations were announced. Raviv was in the original cast of the critically acclaimed world premiere at the Atlantic Theater Company, which opened on December 8, 2016 and played a sold-out, limited engagement through January 8, 2017.
Lia: How has your life changed since making your Broadway debut in The Band’s Visit?
Jonathan: I wouldn’t say my life has changed much actually. I’ve been busy with events with awards season coming up, but life doing 8 shows a week is the same on Broadway as it is off. I did move recently so that’s something. I guess the fact that I have a steady job and paycheck and a regular routine for the foreseeable future frees up brain space for other things and gives me stability that is rare for an actor; for that I’m very happy and grateful.
Lia: What was it like to learn about the Tony nominations on Live TV?
Jonathan: Finding out on Live TV was wild. We had no idea what was happening because we were about to perform as the nominations were coming out. Right before we started the performance Hoda and Savannah were interviewing Tony and Katrina and revealed to them that they were both nominated, that the show was nominated for best musical and that we had 7 nominations in total, but we didn’t know what the other 4 were. We were all waiting on the side ready to start the song and were obviously excited for Tony and Katrina and the best musical nomination, but we had to keep it together for the performance. After the song, we all came together to do the final sign off and Savannah and Hoda came up to us again and told us that the number had jumped from 7 to 11. Needless to say, we were shocked. 7 was great, but 11?! It was insane. Of course shortly thereafter, we got back inside from the plaza and found one of our dressers, Alex, who told us what all the nominations were. The whole thing was so exciting and surreal. It was a great day. Click here to watch the cast on The Today Show.
Lia: Last time we spoke, you mentioned that getting to speak Hebrew (your mother tongue) on the Broadway stage would be a notable debut. Please elaborate on the representation that is happening on the Ethel Barrymore Stage every night and how audiences have been affected, specifically reactions that you get at the stage door from young actors?
Jonathan: There are so many stories of people (adults and kids) of Middle Eastern descent DMing people in the cast on social media and telling us how happy they are to see themselves on stage. That means so much. Some of us were talking the other night about what it would have been like if this show existed when we were kids and how we would have felt so much more welcome in the American Theatre. I think about that kid in middle school hearing the album or coming to see the show and I think it’s so cool that we may be opening a door for them to feel included in an otherwise white-washed medium. I also think it’s great that we’re exposing American kids to this music and these instruments and showing them that these people that they may only see in one light on the news are the same as them.
Lia: What has the experience been like to work with this particular team of artists and the creative team?
Jonathan: This team from top down is the most talented group of people I have ever worked with. David Cromer is literally a genius (he won a MacArthur genius grant), David Yazbek is an amazing musician and a hilarious man, Itamar Moses is incredibly smart and well spoken and these group of musicians and actors amaze me every day with their intellect, humor and talent. It pushes me to be better and to always strive for more…it’s also incredibly humbling.
Lia: Have your parents or any other family members come to see the show? If so, what were their reactions?
Jonathan: Oh yeah, my parents came to opening night and were blown away by the show. They had seen it downtown and had mentioned then that they preferred the stage version to the movie (mostly because of Yazbek’s exquisite score), but on Broadway they said it was so much more fleshed out and richer. My brother also came to see both versions and he loved it. My sister and other family members in Israel are planning a visit soon. I’m really excited for them to come and see it.
Lia: If you were to describe your show in one sentence, what would that be?
Jonathan: That’s tough. Everyone takes something different from it and reacts to it in their own way. If I had to describe it, I would say this show is about strangers forced to come together and learn about the other and, in the process, they end up learning something about themselves.
Lia: Have you been able to balance any other projects since you began previews in October?
Jonathan: I’ve been fortunate enough to do a few readings of new works, which I love.
The Broadway company of The Band’s Visit currently features Tony Award nominee Katrina Lenk, Dariush Kashani (Tony Award nominee Tony Shalhoub to play select May performances), John Cariani, Tony Award nominee Ari’el Stachel, George Abud, Etai Benson, Adam Kantor, Andrew Polk, Bill Army, Rachel Prather, Jonathan Raviv, Sharone Sayegh, Kristen Sieh, Alok Tewari, Pomme Koch, Ahmad Maksoud, Madison Micucci and James Rana. Musicians include Andrea Grody, Alexandra Eckhardt, Ossama Farouk, Philip Mayer, Sam Sadigursky, Jeff Theiss, Harvey Valdes and David Garo Yellin.
The performance schedule for The Band’s Visit is: Tuesday – Thursday at 7pm; Friday & Saturday at 8pm; with matinees at 2pm on Wednesday & Saturday; Sunday at 3pm. Click here for tickets.
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.
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