For the past few years, the Grammy winner for best musical theater album has traditionally gone to the same shows that recently won Tony awards — Dear Evan Hansen, Hamilton, The Color Purple. The 2019 winner, The Band’s Visit, was likewise a favorite after its 2018 Tony win for best musical (along with nine other Tonys it took home; the show will be on Broadway through April 7).
But while critical acclaim certainly sets up a show’s cast recording for good Grammy chances, good reviews alone don’t propel it to taking the trophy home. On this week’s Billboard on Broadway podcast, The Band’s Visit’s composer, David Yazbek; one of its stars, Katrina Lenk; and co-musical supervisor and musical coordinator Dean Sharenow join host Rebecca Milzoff to discuss just how they put together an exquisite original Broadway cast recording — and all became Grammy winners in the process.
“Yazbek and I were making records that were not theater records for most of our lives…so we tend to approach things not as a cast album, but as a recording,” says Sharenow. “The choices were not made to make a cast album, they were made to make an album. The recording process was meant to be more soulful.”
As Yazbek explains, because live music is so central to the show itself (an ensemble of traditional Middle Eastern instruments, including some of the show’s actors, play onstage throughout), the team behind the album took special care to preserve its vibe. In their conversation with host Milzoff, the trio discuss how they created the ideal studio environment to recreate the show’s live atmosphere, Lenk offers insights into how she adjusted from stage to recording booth, and Yazbek and Sharenow dish on their Grammy night experience.