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Listen: What ‘the De Niro of Israel’ Stole From Tony Shalhoub for ‘The Band’s Visit’

Sasson Gabay is one of international cinema’s most respected actors: Tony winner Ari’el Stachel once called him “the De Niro of Israel.” But that doesn’t mean Gabay isn’t happy to admit he’s stolen a few tricks from Tony Shalhoub in “The Band’s Visit,” the Broadway musical that Gabay joined in June.

The Israeli actor stepped into the show as Egyptian band leader Tewfiq soon after Shalhoub won a Tony Award for the role. (Shalhoub’s win was one of a sweep of 10 trophies for the show, including best musical.) Gabay never saw Shalhoub’s performance live, but he did catch a recording of it.

“I took from the tape gestures that he’d done,” Gabay said on the latest episode of “Stagecraft,” Variety‘s theater podcast. “And I think I stole from him a laugh that he managed to do. He told me, ‘Feel free to take anything.’ And as much as I could, I took from him!”

Gabay’s current Broadway run is part of a full-circle journey for the actor, after he first played Tewfiq in the 2007 Israeli film that inspired the musical. “For me personally, it was kind of a big, giant step in my career,” the actor said of his part in the movie. “It made me known for the film viewer, and also for the film industry. And since then, I have been offered roles even more.”

On the new episode of “Stagecraft,” Gabay also remembered what it was like to attend the Tonys this year, explained why he made a long-term move to New York for “The Band’s Visit,” and recalled that at first, the idea of making a musical out of the movie struck him as a terrible idea.

New episodes of “Stagecraft” are available every Tuesday. Download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on iTunesStitcher, or anywhere finer podcasts are dispensed. Find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.

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