Bon Jovi’s David Bryan sets sights on Princess Di

Tony Award-winning Jewish keyboardist putting finishing touches on new Broadway musical.

Bon Jovi and David Bryan (Second from the right).   (photo credit: LIVENATION)
Bon Jovi and David Bryan (Second from the right).
(photo credit: LIVENATION)
After they walk off the stage Thursday night at Park Hayarkon in Tel Aviv, most of the members of Bon Jovi will be celebrating the end of their two-month world tour by vacationing in Israel or heading home to sleep for a week. But for the band’s keyboardist and co-founder David Bryan, there won’t be any rest.
He’ll be heading back to the US to dive right into his other job as a composer for Broadway shows, a busman’s holiday that has won him three Tony Awards. Bryan and his collaborator Joe DiPietro are putting the finishing touches on the musical Diana, based on the life of British Princess Diana, which had a trial run earlier this year at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, before an excepted opening on the Great White Way next year. This comes after the success of his first Broadway effort – Memphis – which won three Tony Awards in 2010.
“We got the same Memphis team back for Diana,” Bryan told The Jerusalem Post shortly after landing in Israel on Tuesday with the rest of the band. “We’ll be completing it soon and then making an announcement about the opening.”
The Hollywood Reporter wrote that the show “strikes a tuneful, breezy tone that humanizes the Royals — just not too deeply… Bryan and DiPietro have written a melodic near-sung-through score, complete with zingers that land and at least a few tunes — ‘Him & Her (& Him & Her),’ ‘Perfect Princess,’ ‘Happiness’ and ‘The Dress’ — that could stick.”
On the other hand, Memphis, which traced the integration of the radio airwaves against the backdrop of an interracial love affair, saw Bryan mine the southern R&B and soul that, as a 17-year-old in New Jersey in the 1970s, he played in his first band with Jon Bon Jovi. Featuring a horn section, they tackled vintage tunes like “Knock on Wood” and “Hold On, I’m Coming.”
The versatility, which has been put to good use for the last 35 years with Bon Jovi derives from Bryan’s classical music background as child, growing up as David Rashbaum in a Reform Jewish family.
“I had a bar mitzvah, but we didn’t keep kosher,” said Bryan, who made his first visit to the Jewish state with Bon Jovi in 2015. “I was aware of Israel, but that’s about it. Jersey is far away from here, it’s another world.
“It was more special than a regular gig for me – there’s so much history here. I did a lot of sightseeing and I’m going to do some more this week. We have a couple days off before the show,” he said.
Bryan bristled at being asked about efforts to lobby the band to BDS boycott Israel and cancel their show.
“We don’t get into politics,” he said. “Rock & roll goes everywhere and helps people forget about the world and have a good time. It doesn’t divide, and that’s what we’re talking about – unification, not dividing.”
Regarding the band’s longevity and ability to still fill stadiums, Bryan said that it’s something he never takes for granted.
“It’s a privilege and honor to walk out on the stage and play for fans around the world,” Bryan said. “We give everything we have in our soul and put it out there. And then we move on to the next place. It’s just what we do, it’s been part of my life for the last 35 years, going around the world and playing rock & roll.”