Tony Shalhoub milks Arab roots in new Broadway musical

Tony Shalhoub
Updated 08 November 2017

Tony Shalhoub milks Arab roots in new Broadway musical

NEW YORK: It is always a little startling to hear Lebanese-American Tony Shalhoub talk in his regular voice. After all, he spends so much time onstage and onscreen trying on other peoples’ accents.
The Emmy winner has played Germans, Greeks, Hispanics and Russians and even a space alien in the “Men in Black” films. On Broadway in “Act One,” he actually played three characters — one with a Cockney accent, one with just a hint of a British accent and one who is an urbane Northeasterner.
So, it is no wonder that Shalhoub re-emerged on Broadway on Thursday in “The Band’s Visit” in a military uniform, a mustache — and a luxurious Egyptian accent. How his character sounds is one of the first things he works on.
“It’s something that, for me, really helps to find the inner life of the character, the more I work on that sound,” he said. “And it helps me get to the core of the person.”
Shalhoub plays the stiff leader of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra, which is booked to play a concert in the Israeli city of Petah Tikvah but accidentally ends up in the drowsy town of Bet Hatikva. Over the next few hours, the townspeople and the musicians learn about each other and themselves.
“There’s not a lot of flash and dash and screaming and people throwing things. It’s not your typical Broadway musical because it doesn’t have that sort of size and extravaganza of noise and color,” said Shalhoub, perhaps best known for his role as an obsessive-compulsive detective on television’s “Monk.”
Though the musical has Egyptian Muslim characters entering an Israeli settlement, there is no mention of the Arab-Israeli crisis or global politics. Shalhoub said that is quite energizing.
Shalhoub grew up in a multicultural community ripe with accents in Green Bay, Wisconsin, hence his knack with dialects.
“There was a wide array of accents. And then of course I was in the Midwest, which is full of all kinds of bizarre and interesting accents, even from town to town,” he said. “It was a true melting pot and so there was a collision of many, many sounds and voices coming at me. And somehow all that stuff stuck.”
Shalhoub, 64, even delivers a tune entirely in Arabic on Broadway.


Donald Trump no fan of ‘Borat’ creator Sacha Baron Cohen

Updated 24 October 2020

Donald Trump no fan of ‘Borat’ creator Sacha Baron Cohen

  • Word of Baron Cohen’s latest outrageous ambushes on unsuspecting participants had spread like wildfire

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE: Donald Trump said Friday he has not been a fan of Sacha Baron Cohen – even before a clip from the British comedian’s new Borat movie forced the US president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani into an awkward explanation.
Asked about the clip – which shows Giuliani in a faked “interview” with an attractive and flirtatious young woman – while speaking to journalists aboard Air Force One, Trump said: “I don’t know what happened.”
“But years ago, you know, he tried to scam me. And I was the only one who said no way. That’s a phony guy. And I don’t find him funny.”
Trump said the incident happened about 15 years ago.
“To me, he was a creep,” Trump said.
The president did not provide further details about that encounter, but in a 2003 interview, Baron Cohen – playing the wannabe gangster Ali G – pitched a business venture to Trump: special gloves for eating ice cream.
Before the new Borat film’s release, word of Baron Cohen’s latest outrageous ambushes on unsuspecting participants had spread like wildfire.
On Wednesday, Giuliani issued an angry denial over the fake interview.
In the film, the encounter appears to leave the 76-year-old former New York mayor in a compromising situation, caught with his hands down his pants in the bedroom.
Giuliani said the scene was “a complete fabrication.”
“I was tucking in my shirt after taking off the recording equipment. At no time before, during, or after the interview was I ever inappropriate,” he tweeted.
“If Sacha Baron Cohen implies otherwise, he is a stone-cold liar.”
The comedian continued to poke fun at Giuliani.
In a video posted on social media, Borat himself leapt to his defense and accused the “fake news media” – a term often used by Trump and his supporters – of turning an “innocent” encounter into “something disgusting.”