Katrina Lenk Can Quietly Break Your Heart

Quiet may well be the new loud in the world of show tunes. Unexpectedly, one of last season’s most acclaimed new musicals, “The Band’s Visit,” did not feature flashy choreography or cathartic 11 o’clock belters. Based on the 2007 art house film of the same title, the show, which played Off Broadway at the Atlantic Theater, is a low-key charmer in which looking at someone in silence carries as much emotional weight as delivering one of David Yazbek’s insidiously catchy songs.

Mastering both was Katrina Lenk, as the sultry owner of the lone cafe in a dead-end Israeli town, who has a brief encounter with a group of marooned Egyptian musicians, led by Tony Shalhoub. Fortunately, Ms. Lenk is now getting ready to reprise her performance at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, where the show starts Broadway previews on Oct. 7.

Over lunch at the Israeli restaurant Balaboosta in Manhattan a couple of weeks after the closing of Broadway’s “Indecent,” in which she played the passionate prostitute Menke, Ms. Lenk was almost as wry as her “Band’s Visit” character, Dina. Describing how she got cast, she simply said, with a shrug, “I went in, got a callback, then got the part.”

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The actress combines classic beauty — her face is dominated by striking wide-set eyes and cheekbones worthy of a 1930s film star — with easygoing friendliness, and her calm default setting seems contagious. When she did a stint as Arachne in “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” about five years ago, the famously accident-prone production stayed out of the news. “There was no drama when I was there,” she said, laughing. “It was the 11 months when nothing went wrong.”

Mr. Yazbek (“Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”) helped fill in the blanks on the casting process, recalling Ms. Lenk’s early performance of one of Dina’s songs. “At some point, she sang ‘Omar Sharif,’ maybe at a callback, and I thought she was Israeli,” he said on the phone. “It was the whole package: the accent, the style, everything.” He recently wrote on Twitter that Ms. Lenk’s take was “one of my two favorite versions of anyone singing any of my shows songs. (The other is Lupone).”

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