Tony Shalhoub Promises ‘The Band’s Visit’ Will Startle Audiences in Unexpected Ways (Exclusive)

The Band's Visit
Ahron F. Foster

The former ‘Monk’ star opens up to ET about performing in his first Broadway musical, adapted from the 2007 Israeli film.

He solved murder cases on Monk. Now, for the first time, veteran actor Tony Shalhoub is taking a stab at musical theater. Call it a birthday gift -- to himself.

“It’s a little terrifying. Having not done a musical before, it’s kind of uncharted waters for me,” says Shalhoub, who turns 64 on Oct. 9, two days after The Band’s Visit starts preview performances at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on Broadway. Despite appearing on Broadway last season as Walter Franz in Arthur Miller’s The Price and earning Tony nominations for Golden Boy and Conversations With My Father, this is the first time the actor will be singing onstage. Based on the 2007 film, the show originally premiered Off- Broadway to sold-out audiences last year “without any knowledge or guarantee it was going to move [to Broadway]. We’re over the moon about the fact it’s going to be in a huge venue.”

The Band’s Visit tells the story of an Egyptian police band that travels to Israel to perform and ends up stranded in the wrong town. “There is a lot of humor in it,” Shalhoub, who’s familiar with comedy, explains to ET. He won three Emmy Awards for his role as obsessive-compulsive homicide detective Adrian Monk on the TV series, Monk; onstage he plays Tewfiq, the leader of the lost band. 

“I think people are going to be moved and startled by [the story] and not really know why. It’s so subtle and it’s so delicate. It doesn’t register on an intellectual level.”

The Band’s Visit also stars Katrina Lenk (Indecent), Ari’el Stachel (Blue Bloods) and John Cariani (Something Rotten!). Cariani plays Itzik, who welcomes the Egyptian band into his home. “It ends very well because people are kind to each other and the Israelis take care of the temporarily homeless Egyptians,” Cariani says, adding that his favorite part of the show is how the music blends into the story seamlessly – which is different than how a traditional musical plays out. “It’s not like everyone winds up [together] and sings a big song. There are sequences where a scene will be happening and it transitions into song. Then all of a sudden you’re back into a scene again and you don’t know you went from scene to song to scene.”

“One thing I love about this show, obviously, is the music,” Tony-nominated composer David Yazbek says of his fourth Broadway show, which featuers a book by Itamar Moses. Yazbek also wrote the music for The Full Monty and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, also based on movies.  “It’s an amazing blend -- amazing. I sound like [President Donald] Trump. It’s an amazing blend of jazz, [with] a little rock in there.”

With a storyline about Egyptians and Israelis, some might think the story is political or religious. But Yazbek describes it simply about different cultures coming together. “Everything has politics underneath it,” he explains. “That’s where the politics remain here -- but you feel it the whole time. It’s never overly mentioned.”

“There is so much discussion and controversy about immigrants and different cultures and actualism, this story applies to all of them.” Shalhoub adds. “It’s a timely piece.”