David Yazbek (born 1961) is an American writer, musician, composer, and lyricist. He wrote the music and lyrics for the Broadway musicals The Full Monty (2000), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (2005) and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (2010).
Yazbek was born in New York City, to a mother of Jewish and Italian descent, and a father of Lebanese ancestry. Musical from birth, he began cello lessons in elementary school and took up the piano as a teenager.
While attending Brown University as an undergraduate, he wrote an original musical with the production group Brownbrokers before graduating in 1982. He also directed a production of HAIR with student theatre group Production Workshop, for which he composed an original song to compliment the classic score. After college he got a job writing for David Letterman‘s late night television show. He won an Emmy as part of Letterman’s writing team in 1986, but quit to pursue his love of music. From 1987 to 1989 he was the co-owner of Manhattan Recording Company and wrote many commercial jingles.
An accomplished musician, Yazbek has released four rock albums to date which highlight his unique perspective and wry sense of humor. He has also written many songs and background music for children’s television shows, especially those produced for Disney‘s cable television channel. He also co-wrote the theme song to the Emmy award winning PBS-TV series Where in The World Is Carmen Sandiego? with songwriter Sean Altman, a high school friend who led the show’s featured vocal groupRockapella. Yazbek and Altman also composed and wrote the theme song to World’s successor, Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?
Yazbek has produced tracks for the band XTC, and its lead singer Andy Partridge has collaborated on Yazbek’s solo albums. He also has written for or produced recordings by Spacehog, Tito Puente, The Persuasions, Queen, and Sarah Saturday. XTC also contributed a track to the “Carmen Sandiego” soundtrack album, which Yazbek produced.
In 2000, Broadway director Jack O’Brien approached composer-lyricist Adam Guettel to write the music and lyrics for a musical based on the hit movie The Full Monty. Guettel declined, but recommended Yazbek, with whom he had played in a band. Yazbek took the job, collaborating with librettist Terrence McNally. The show was a success, although it was overshadowed that year by Mel Brooks‘ musical The Producers. The Full Monty ran for two years before closing, and for his work Yazbek was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Original Score and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lyrics, and won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music. In 2002 he was a contributing lyricist for the musical Bombay Dreams.
Yazbek wrote the music and lyrics to the musical adaptation of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which opened on Broadway in 2005, featuring John Lithgow, Norbert Leo Butz,Sherie Rene Scott, Joanna Gleason, and Gregory Jbara. Yazbek was again nominated for the 2005 Tony Award for Best Original Score, and Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Music and Outstanding Lyrics.
In 2007, Yazbek began developing the music and lyrics for Bruce Lee: Journey to the West, a stage musical based on the life of martial artist Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee will feature a book by David Henry Hwang and will be directed by Bartlett Sher. Variety reported that the musical was aiming to open on Broadway during the 2010-2011 season, but these plans have been put on indefinite hold.
Yazbek was working on a musical based on the life of magician Harry Houdini, to be titled Houdini; Danny Elfman was to write the music and Yazbek was to contribute the lyrics. Houdini was tentatively set to open on Broadway in Spring 2010, with Hugh Jackman starring, but these plans fell through. The project has moved forward without Elfman and Yazbek, with Stephen Schwartz (of Wicked and Godspell fame) now writing both the music & lyrics, and Jackman still set to star. The musical plans to open on Broadway during the 2013-2014 season.
Yazbek has written the music for the musical adaptation of the 1988 Pedro Almodóvar film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. In October 2009, the musical had a closed reading directed by Bartlett Sher and featuring Salma Hayek, Jessica Biel, Matthew Morrison, and Paulo Szot. The musical opened on Broadway at theBelasco Theatre on November 4, 2010, with previews starting October 8. The musical stars Patti LuPone, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Sherie Rene Scott, with direction by Bartlett Sher. The production received mixed to negative reviews, despite praise for the actors and Yazbek’s score, and closed on January 2, 2011 after 30 previews and 69 performances. Despite the early closing, the show was still nominated for three Tony Awards, for the performances of Patti LuPone and Lauri Benanti, and Yazbek’s score.
- 2011 – Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown Original Broadway Cast – Composer (Ghostlight Records)
- 2007 – David Yazbek and His Warmest Regards: Evil Monkey Man (Ghostlight Records)
- 2005 – Dirty Rotten Scoundrels Original Broadway Cast – Composer (Sh-K-Boom Records)
- 2005 – Tape Recorder: collected works (What Are Records?)
- 2001 – Damascus (What Are Records?)
- 2000 – The Full Monty: The Broadway Musical Composer (RCA Victor)
- 1998 – Tock (What Are Records?)
- 1996 – Laughing Man (What Are Records?)
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