Pittsburgh native Mike Cefalo is making his way across the country with a band of lost musicians. Cefalo is portraying the hopelessly romantic The Telephone Guy in his touring debut of The Band’s Visit. The Tony-winning musical is capturing audiences with its deceptively simple story of a group of traveling Israeli musicians who unexpectedly find themselves in the wrong town. The results have won the hearts of audiences and critics alike.
[Academy of Music, 240 S. Broad Street] January 7-19, 2020; kimmelcenter.org
Debra Danese: This is your National Tour debut. What has the experience been like so far and is it anything like what you expected?
Mike Cefalo: It has been amazing so far! I have always wanted to tour, and the fact that I am touring with The Band’s Visit is an absolute dream come true. It’s interesting to see how this show affects audiences of different parts of the country. There’s definitely something for everyone in this piece, but where it clicks with people always changes from city to city. I’ve seen so much of this country, and Canada, that I never thought I’d see. Philly is just about the halfway point of this year for us, and we’re rarin’ for more!
DD: You are playing The Telephone Guy. Tell us about your character and why he waits so anxiously for a phone call.
MC: Telephone Guy is definitely one of the more oddball characters I’ve ever played, and it is a real treat to step into his Fila’s eight shows a week. He is waiting at the only pay phone in town (for a month!) for his girlfriend to call. I think everybody can connect to his waiting, whether it be for college news, career movement, or even for a loved one to call. He really is the universal sign of longing and hope in this show– taken to a preposterously strange, David Lynch-esque extreme, which I love.
DD: The show is set in Israel. What type of research did you do and how challenging was it to learn the dialect?
MC: Right away, I watched the 2007 film on which the musical is based. It stars Sasson Gabay as Tewfiq, who reprised his role on the road with us! I was very fortunate to work with such an incredible dialect coach, Zohar Tirosh-Polk, during our rehearsal process. She helped us hone in on key sounds, inflections, and consonant changes that are typical of an Israeli dialect. It didn’t hurt that many native Israelis and Hebrew speakers are in our cast, and immersing myself with them day after day helped me perfect the dialect.
DD: Why do you think audiences connect so well with this story?
MC: At its core, The Band’s Visit is really about longing and human connection. Each and every character is longing for something, and what makes it so special is that, instead of typical flashy hopes and dreams we often see in musicals, they long for real, human things. The first time I saw the show, I was a puddle on the floor by the end of the show for this very reason.
DD: What’s the last thing you do before making your entrance onto stage?
MC: I don’t know if I should say this or not, but I usually crack a joke, high five a friend, or do something silly to take my mind off of any other stressors. Then as soon as I stand by the phone booth, everything clicks.
DD: What has been your favorite part of touring the country?
MC: Local cuisine! I’ve eaten poutine in Toronto, cheese curds in Wisconsin, fried chicken (and bourbon) in Louisville, and much more. Philly is famous for cheesesteaks, right? I guess I’ll find out soon!
The Band’s Visit will play at the Academy of Music from January 7 to 19, 2020. kimmelcenter.org