Adam Kantor stole Tzeitel’s heart when he starred as Motel the Tailor in the recent Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof. And every night at the Barrymore Theatre, he steals the audience’s heart with his portrayal of the lovesick Telephone Guy in the ravishing production of The Band’s Visit. With music and lyrics by David Yazbek, book by Itamar Moses, and direction by David Cromer, the musical has been a critical and commercial hit and a forerunner for the Tony Award for Best Musical.
On April 16, Kantor will guest star in Yazbek’s cabaret show at Feinstein’s/54 Below. We spoke to him about being in Broadway’s hottest show, working with the virtuoso composer, and appearing at Feinstein’/54 Below.
Culturadar: To call The Band’s Visit a success would be a massive understatement. Why do you feel the show has so strongly resonated with audiences?
Adam Kantor: With such overt divisiveness pervading our everyday lives, I think a musical about human connection that feels this real, this understated and this delicate, with music that’s so culturally authentic, so artfully crafted, and so character-specific, is completely a unicorn. And audiences love unicorns.
CR: You’ve been with The Band’s Visit through workshops and conceptions. What has been the biggest change as the show has come together?
AK: It’s tricky to track the changes. There have been many, but they’ve been so incremental, often microscopic, and organically driven by our brilliant creative team and cast. At least in the Broadway process, nobody walked in and was like “we’re cutting this song” or “we’re adding this dream ballet” or “we’re removing all doors.” I guess one of the biggest changes I’ve witnessed has been the increased presence of the musicians - the role of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra. They’re now woven into the fabric of this musical in a very intrinsic and important way. I think it’s made the musical a lot more rich and rewarding. One of my favorite parts of the show to watch is a beautiful transition that Cromer staged with our incredible musicians just wailing and improvising on a theme that Yazbek created, as the turntable revolves, and Scott Pask’s set unfolds and brings us to a new location. I’ve never seen an audience so riveted by a transition. It also doesn’t hurt that it is sandwiched by two incredibly rich scenes written by Itamar Moses.
CR: The Band’s Visit promotes connectivity and cross-cultural inclusivity. How does it feel presenting those themes on stage?
AK: Pretty f**kin good, Culturadar. Preetttyyyy good.
CR: There are so many phenomenal performers currently turning heads on Broadway. Which actor’s place would you love to steal for a day?
AK: I’d love to be Tewfiq for a day just so I could have Katrina Lenk sing “Omar Sharif” in front of my face. But only for that song — then I’d want Dariush or Tony to step in immediately so I wouldn’t have to actually attempt playing that role, which each of them do quite brilliantly.
CR: You join David Yazbek at Feinstein’s/54 Below next month. What do you enjoy about the most about performing cabaret?
AK: I love the role that the audience plays in a cabaret setting like Feinstein’s/54 Below — it feels immediate and intimate in an exciting (and often terrifying) way.
CR: Similarly, what do you most enjoy about working with David and performing his music?
AK: David has such a strong voice. I don’t mean his singing voice, which is good. It’s pretty good. It’s like - have you tried the fries at 54? They’re good. But the chicken? Excellent. His artistic voice is - dare I say - even better than the chicken at Feinstein’s/54 Below.
Yazbek is entirely himself in his music, and the way he approaches his music -- straight-on, no apologies, full-force, and with incredible depth. I don’t understand how he can understand so many different viewpoints, styles, characters, so deeply and authentically in his music. Nobody should be able to do that. He’s also hilarious.
His self-effacing demeanor, amicable personality, and ability to tell a great fart joke completely belie the indisputable depths he travels in his work. I get to sing one of the most beautiful songs ever written, “Answer Me,” eight times a week on Broadway, and that’s a huge gift. I’d like to hang out with him and work with him always and forever. I’m very, very excited to sing with him again on April 16th, and you can bet I’ll be ordering the chicken.
CR: Every theatre devotee has their guilty pleasure musical. Would you mind sharing yours with us?
AK: Nope. Some secrets you never tell.
The Band’s Visit plays at The Ethel Barrymore Theatre, 243 W 47th Street, NYC. For tickets and information: https://thebandsvisitmusical.com
Headshot by Sub/Urban photography
Production photo by Matthew Murphy