David Yazbek

Tony Nominee David Yazbek Breaks Down The Band’s Visit Album Track-by-Track

Composer-lyricist David Yazbek burst onto the Broadway scene when he earned a Tony nomination for his Broadway debut, The Full Monty. A light pop-rock sound dominates that first Main Stem score, and his follow-up took at turn toward the bold and brassy—and earned him another Tony nomination. Yet he took hold of another brand new style with Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, exploring aharmonies and Spanish rhythms—and earned another Tony nomination. Yazbek’s daring is on display again this season with The Band’s Visit, the Israel-set intimate musical about an Egyptian police orchestra that winds up in the most boring of desert towns instead of the Arabic Cultural Center.

Dean Sharenow and David Yazbek Susan Stava

Dean Sharenow and David Yazbek Susan Stava

Using authentic Arabic instrumentation (the oud, the riq, etc.) combined with comic sensibility and romantic, sweeping melodies, Yazbek could make it four for four in 2018. (He won the Drama Desk Awards for Oustanding Lyrics and Outstanding Music as the show premiered Off-Broadway last season.) Clearly, Yazbek takes his own advice of “listen to everything” and allows styles to blend like spices. Here, the artist reveals his writing process behind the songs on The Band’s Visit album—now available from Ghostlight Records.

Which song inspired the turntable scenic design? Which song is based on his own experiences with his wife? What’s the secret to “Omar Sharif” working the way it does? What is written and what is improvised?

Read David Yazbek's comments at the source.

BWW Album Review: THE BAND'S VISIT Floats In On A Jasmine Wind

By: Amanda Prahl

Bet Hatikvah, the small town that is the setting for The Band's Visit, is utterly unremarkable. But "unremarkable" is the last adjective one would use to describe the score for this new musical, about an Egyptian police orchestra who, thanks to a linguistic mix-up, find themselves stranded overnight in a tiny Israeli town. Written by Tony nominee David Yazbek, the music ranges from haunting and ethereal to rousing and comedic, weaving together the structures and storytelling needs of musical theatre with melodies and orchestrations that are undeniably, authentically Middle Eastern. The end result is a score that takes a moment to absorb fully, but once it does, it's hard to stop thinking about.

"Waiting" and "Welcome To Nowhere" kick off the album with back-to-back odes to the monotony of life in Bet Hatikvah. "Waiting," the opening song, introduces us to the town's residents who have one thing in common: a feeling of being stuck. It also introduces us to one of Yazbek's best instruments throughout the score: the pure, powerful, haunting chorus of voices. Where "Waiting" is reflective, as the residents describe their own lives internally, "Welcome To Nowhere" is sarcastic and biting, as they introduce their stranded Egyptian guests to the town. It's filled to the brim with wry lyrics such as "Pick a sand hill of your choosing / Take some bricks that no one's using / Build some buildings, put some Jews in." Pairing these songs back-to-back gives a pretty good overview of the musical as a whole: half earnest yearning, half sharp comedy.

Later in the album, we get another set of perfectly paired songs: "Papi Hears The Ocean," sung by Etai Benson, and "Haled's Song About Love," sung by Ari'el Stachel. There may not be a funnier or better-matched buddy duo on Broadway right now than Benson and Stachel, and their pair of songs is one of the best parts of the whole album. As Papi, Benson is endearingly awkward, even as he masterfully trips through the tongue-twisting patter of his song, a sweet and hilarious explanation of Papi's inability to connect with girls. Stachel's Haled is the perfect foil, with a crooner's smooth, jazzy tones that glide through his explanation of the secrets of love: "don't break the ice, you melt the ice." Their pair of songs are a perfect storm of humor, heart, and that shared human longing to love and be loved - who could ask for anything more?

Read the full BroadwayWorld review here.

Review: ‘The Band’s Visit’ Is a Ravishing Musical That Whispers With Romance

By: Ben Brantley

Breaking news for Broadway theatergoers, even — or perhaps especially — those who thought they were past the age of infatuation: It is time to fall in love again.

One of the most ravishing musicals you will ever be seduced by opened on Thursday night at the Barrymore Theater. It is called “The Band’s Visit,”and its undeniable allure is not of the hard-charging, brightly blaring sort common to box-office extravaganzas.

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Instead, this portrait of a single night in a tiny Israeli desert town confirms a lyric that arrives, like nearly everything in this remarkable show, on a breath of reluctantly romantic hope: “Nothing is as beautiful as something you don’t expect.”

With songs by David Yazbek and a script by Itamar Moses, “The Band’s Visit” is a Broadway rarity seldom found these days outside of the canon of Stephen Sondheim: an honest-to-God musical for grown-ups. It is not a work to be punctuated with rowdy cheers and foot-stomping ovations, despite the uncanny virtuosity of Mr. Yazbek’s benchmark score.

That would stop the show, and you really don’t want that to happen. Directed by David Cromer with an inspired inventiveness that never calls attention to itself, “The Band’s Visit” flows with the grave and joyful insistence of life itself. All it asks is that you be quiet enough to hear the music in the murmurs, whispers and silences of human existence at its most mundane — and transcendent.

Read the full review at The New York Times.

The Band's Visit Will Receive a Broadway Cast Album

The original Broadway cast recording for The Band's Visit will be released later this year on Ghostlight Records. An official release date for the album has yet to be announced, but fans of the new musical can sign up for updates here.

David Yazbek and Itamar Moses’ The Band's Visit is currently in previews at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, where it began performances October 7 and will officially open November 9. David Cromer directs.

Ghostlight founder Kurt Deutsch will serve as the album’s executive producer, with Yazbek and Grammy-nominated producer Dean Sharenow attached as producers.

The Band’s Visit is unlike any modern musical I have ever seen,” says Deutsch. “David Yazbek creates a sonic and distinct world though his humor, beautiful melodies and character studies that is transcendent, thought-provoking and profoundly moving. It is an honor to work with him again and preserve this beautiful show with an original Broadway cast recording.”

The Band's Visit arrived on Broadway this fall following an acclaimed and sold-out world premiere at Atlantic Theater Company last year. Though the Off-Broadway production was a hit, no cast album was recorded.

The Broadway company features much of the original cast, and is made up of Katrina Lenk, Tony Shalhoub, John Cariani, Ari'el Stachel, George Abud, Etai Benson, Adam Kantor, Andrew Polk, Bill Army, Rachel Prather, Jonathan Raviv, Sharone Sayegh, Kristen Sieh, and Alok Tewari.

Read the full Playbill article here.

The Band's Visit: When Music Crosses Borders

By: Gerard Raymond

In The Band’s Visit, a group of musicians travels from Egypt to Israel to give a concert, but arrives at the wrong destination. “You probably didn’t hear about it. It wasn’t very important,” reads a projected title at the start of the new musical now at the Ethel Barrymore Theater on Broadway. The self-deprecating disclaimer will fool no one.

Composer lyricist David Yazbek and book-writer Itamar Moses were well aware of that when they lifted the introduction from the lauded 2007 Israeli movie on which their musical is based. “We wanted to use that phrase from the movie because it sets the right tone: This is going to be a story about how the things that are ostensibly unimportant are perhaps hugely important,” says Moses.

The affecting fable about the members of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Band from Egypt who get mistakenly stranded in a small Israeli town in the middle of the Negev desert arrives on Broadway following an acclaimed run Off-Broadway. In the musical, over the course of a single night, the visitors and the locals make unexpected connections that transcend divisive politics or culture; the bond between them is their common humanity. And music.

Read the full article at Broadway Direct.