Israeli actor Sasson Gabay stepped into the role of Tewfiq in The Band's Visit on Broadway June 26. It wasn't his first time portraying the Egyptian police band leader; the actor had originated the role in Eran Kolirin's 2007 film that inspired the Tony-winning musical.
“I’ve been carrying this film with me for many years. It continues to inspire responses from people in film festivals and abroad; in a way, it’s still existing,” Gabay told Playbill following a recent performance. “But I never expected to join the character again. When [producer] Orin Wolf told me he had this idea [of adapting the movie into a musical], I immediately agreed with the idea, but I didn’t think it would happen.”
When Wolf approached Sasson again—after the show had already transferred to Broadway and knowing that its Tony-winning star Tony Shalhoub would soon be departing—it was with an offer to play Tewfiq again, this time onstage.
For Gabay, it was a welcome opportunity to return to a character that had stayed special to him for the past decade. “Part of every character has stayed with me, but especially this one,” says the actor. “I like this man. His lightness, his nobility, and how formal he is. He doesn’t know how to manage in the world, so he’s developed a shell.
“I’ve liked coming back to him. It was like meeting an old, good friend that you join forces with again.”
Gabay took over from Dariush Kashani, who succeeded Shalhoub earlier this year.
The Band's Visit unravels over the course of a single evening as a stranded Egyptian police band forms unlikely friendships with the inhabitants of a remote, Israeli desert village. The show opened at Broadway’s Ethel Barrymore Theatre in November last year after an acclaimed Off-Broadway world premiere at Atlantic Theater Company.