Featured photo courtesy of Adam Ben-David
Accompanying Mandy Patinkin on tour has been a dream come true for pianist/musical director/conductor Adam Ben-David.
“I met Mandy at a musical workshop in New York City and I approached him about playing for him,” says Ben-David, associate musical director for Book of Mormon on Broadway for nine years. “It was 2015 and coincided with the retirement of his longtime piano player Paul Ford. We met with Paul and spent a few days in Mandy’s studio. They played Mandy’s music for me, and I slowly began to learn his repertoire. We went on to do some exploratory concerts together.”
When Patinkin asked Ben-David to tour with him, he jumped at the chance. “Mandy is one of the best ever and very inspiring,” says Ben-David, who has been touring with Patinkin for four years. “I grew up listening to Mandy sing and watching him act. Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I’m on stage with him — it’s definitely a little heady.”
Working on Broadway has kept Ben-David in New York, but he has been able to take breaks and perform with other singers, including Kelli O’Hara, Patti LuPone, James Taylor and Jarrod Spector.
It’s not surprising that Ben-David became a musician — he comes by it naturally. His mother, Batyah, and his dad, Kerry Ben-David, were singers who met at Julliard. “My mom was a soloist at the Metropolitan Opera and my dad, also an opera singer, became a cantor,” he says. “My sister Sheera is a singer and cantor in Chicago.”
Ben-David, who grew up in Westchester, N.Y., began singing at age 5. After graduating high school, he went on to earn a degree at Julliard.
“While at Julliard, I was working at Scarsdale High School’s summer theater program conducting a production of Once Upon a Mattress,” he recalls. “Mary Rodgers wrote the music for that show, and I wrote to her inviting her to see the production. She came and even stayed and talked to the kids. Next morning, she called and asked me, ‘What would you like to do when you graduate Julliard?’ I said conduct Broadway. She said I will make that happen! I got my first job as the associate conductor for the revival of Once Upon a Mattress starring Sara Jessica Parker in 1996.”
Ben-David’s career took off and his impressive list of Broadway credits include Jersey Boys, Spring Awakening, Wicked, High Fidelity, The Light in the Piazza, Bombay Dreams and Aida.
He grew up in a Jewish home and attended Westchester Day School, a yeshivah. “My mom was raised Orthodox and my dad was Irish Catholic and an altar boy,” he says. “But my dad found his way into the Jewish fold. When I was around 10, he converted and went to Hebrew Union College to become a cantor. He changed his last name from McDevitt to Ben-David. I was born Adam McDevitt and became Adam Ben-David.”
His dad, who died in 2015, was a cantor for 35 years. “He had filled in one day for the cantor who was sick, learned the service phonetically and had a white light experience while on the pulpit. It became very clear to him this was his path. My dad really loved Judaism and identified as a Jew.
“I love composing, Broadway and touring,” Ben-David says. “Mandy is the real deal — that star on stage. And that’s not always easy to find.”