“The Band’s Visit” and “Wicked”
Follow Broadway's biggest stars during their breaks between matinee and evening performances. Jog through Central Park with Etai Benson from “The Band’s Visit.” Watch Jessica Vosk from “Wicked” get painted green to play Elphaba. Go behind the scenes of Broadway’s biggest theatres as actors get ready for the curtain to rise.
Welcome to "Broadway Sandwich," where our mission is to find out
what your favorite Broadway stars do
between performances on a two-show day.
Join me as we find out what makes up the meat
in this Broadway sandwich.
Today, we are hanging out with one of the stars
of "The Band's Visit," Etai Benson.
"The Band's Visit" tells the story
of an Egyptian police band that mistakenly ends up
stuck in a tiny Israeli town overnight
and the locals who take them in.
The music was phenomenal.
The acting was phenomenal.
I was blown away.
It was amazing.
The musical stars Adam Kantor, Katrina Lenk and Etai Benson.
Etai plays Papi,
a romantically-challenged Israeli teenager.
Etai and I became great friends on the national tour
of "An American in Paris."
We're meeting Etai at the stage door,
and then he's giving us a peek behind the scenes.
Oh, there he is! Do you want to come around?
[ Mouthing ]
I want to show you the stage first.
Oh, my God. Amazing.
And then I'll take you up to the dressing room,
so come this way. Let's do it. Okay.
Right this way.
The legendary Barrymore stage.
So beautiful. It's amazing.
It's 1,000 seats. It's one of the --
it's actually pretty intimate for a Broadway house. Yeah.
This is where "A Streetcar Named Desire" premiered.
Yeah. "Raisin in the Sun."
"Raisin in the Sun." Marlon Brando was on this stage.
Unbelievable. Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire. Stella.
Oh, yeah. And now I get to roller skate on it.
This whole thing is a turntable.
We actually have multiple turntables,
so this we call the doughnut for obvious reasons. Yep.
It turns, and then this inner one, the doughnut hole, I guess.
And this is our set. This is Bet Hatikva,
the small Israeli town where the show takes place.
It takes that old tale of, like, the fish out of water, like...
Yeah, of course. ...new people in town,
but it's a different kind of spin on it
because it's Israelis and Arabs,
and we have not seen that on Broadway before...
Yeah. ...in a musical, especially.
Modern Middle Eastern people portrayed on a stage.
This is the first time, which for me is a huge deal...
Right. ...because I'm Israeli myself,
so I've always dreamed about being in a new Broadway show
and originating a role, but now I get to do it
while also speaking Hebrew, which is the language
I grew up speaking. Geez.
It's bigger than any dream I've ever had.
Okay, so basically this Egyptian military band
shows up in a town that's the wrong town.
Yes. The whole play takes place in about 24 hours... Right.
...and the Egyptians sort of mix
with the local Israelis and they think of each other,
sort of historically, as an enemy,
but here they find their shared humanity,
and really we have more in common than we have different.
We have Israeli theatre fans who are tweeting us
and sending us messages on Instagram just like,
"I can't believe this is happening.
I can't believe I'm being represented on this stage."
Arabic kids, Israeli kids.
This is a game changer, this show. Yeah.
You want to see the dressing room?
You want to see the glamorous dressing room
of a Broadway actor?
Let's do it. Let's do it.
This is the call board, so this is where we sign in.
Yep. We have lots of announcements.
And here it is. This is where the magic happens.
This is the glamorous Broadway dressing room
at the Barrymore Theatre.
It's -- I mean, it's huge.
I can reach both walls with my hands.
I know. It's pretty incredible.
This would probably be a $1 million apartment
right here, this... In New York City in Midtown?
...seven-foot -- yeah.
Yes, at least $1 million.
We got our costumes here, which for me is not much.
Yeah. That's my roller skate.
Skate on, Etai.
So this right here is essential.
This is a personal steamer, so especially
on two-show days... Yeah.
...if my voice is, like, feeling kind of raw or whatever,
I can steam... I love those.
...and I'm like Hannibal Lecter a little bit...
Yeah. ...before the show.
Uh-huh. That's pretty much it. This is my little studio.
Okay, so we're in between shows.
You have just a few hours to get in everything you need to do.
Next show is at 8:00, so I have almost 4-hour break on Saturday.
Got to go for a run. Yep.
Got to get some food.
Okay, so, "Wizard of Oz" was your first show. Yes.
First musical theatre experience.
Wait, and then you were in "Wicked"
on Broadway, that was your debut?
-I know. -That's a cool little number.
That story, I can't get away from that story.
That's very good. I know.
Yeah, but it's cute. No, it was amazing.
It was like a cool, full-circle thing.
We had, like, this really strong drama department
in my high school.
What town? Coral Springs, Florida.
Wow. I usually say Fort Lauderdale.
So, wait, is there a lot of coral there?
There's no coral. Are there any springs?
There's no springs. No. It's called Coral Springs.
So what's there? A lot of retirees.
[ Laughs ]
In Florida, like, theatre is huge. Yeah.
Like, both professional theatre and, like, high school theatre. Yeah.
And then, you know, I did it in high school.
I went to camp.
I went to, like, a theatre camp...
-Yep. Oh, Stagedoor Manor... -Yeah.
...which is like basically the Olympics of musical theatre.
Benson: I started auditioning for colleges,
and I got into my top choice,
which was the University of Michigan.
What I loved about it is it was also, like,
it was also an incredible university,
like, academically, which is what I wanted,
and I wanted, like, a college experience like in the movies.
I wanted to, like, sit in the quad.
Great football team, and also everybody on Broadway
either went to U of M, Juilliard, Carnegie Mellon.
That's right. It's, like, that kind of trifecta of schools.
So, I usually like to run in the park.
So why don't we go to Central Park?
It's dark already. Yeah.
But we're still in between shows,
and this is the time when you're going to run.
Yeah. It's, like, meditative for me between shows.
So this helps you for your next show.
Yeah, well, it helps me not just, like, get my blood
going and get my body ready for the next show,
but it also is, like, very calming and...
Yeah. It's a meditation. I get that. ...and especially in the park.
It's like you're in this suddenly quiet place
in the middle of the most insane part of the world.
It's incredible. So it's a nice escape.
New York City. Yeah, and plus I got these.
Yeah! So I just get to disappear into this for, like...
Perfect. All right. Well, you get going.
I'm going to stay here because I have heels on.
Okay. And I'll see you on the way back.
Here he comes. Yes!
All right, so what's on the schedule now?
Where are we going now? I've been having some, like, I've been feeling
like my vocal cords have been feeling kind of swollen.
Yeah, so we got to take care of those.
So I have to get, like, some, like,
anti-inflammatory vitamins, and then we'll get some food.
More Episodes (9)
Broadway Sandwich: “Beautiful” and “Hadestown”October 16, 2019
Broadway Sandwich: “My Fair Lady” and “The Lion King”October 02, 2019
Broadway Sandwich: "Waitress" and "Chicago"September 10, 2019
Broadway Sandwich: "The Cher Show" and "Beetlejuice"September 04, 2019
Broadway Sandwich: “The Prom” and “Pretty Woman”August 21, 2019
“The Band’s Visit” and “Wicked”February 20, 2019
- TheaterOur most popular episodes and shows of 2019, from “Broadway Sandwich” to “The C-Files”December 27, 2019
- TheaterFans start campaign to save “Beetlejuice” amid Broadway hit’s looming evictionDecember 10, 2019
- “My Fair Lady” actor Rebecca Eichenberger shares showbiz wisdom in “Broadway Sandwich”September 25, 2019