Backstage Review

King David
by Ron Cohen

April 17, 2009

David M. Sanborn is an impressive performer, and his enactment of the Biblical story of King David in this one-man musical displays his triple-threat credentials as dancer, singer, and actor. Furthermore, the religious fervor with which he infuses the show gives him yet another quality, making him a quadruple threat.

Moreover, he co-wrote and co-composed King David with his mother, Ellen Sanborn, who has directed the show. However, the piece does have its creative collaborators: Both the program and Sanborn at the start of the performance assure us that every spoken word has been translated from the Bible and every song adapted from King David's own psalms. And the story of David's unending relationship with the Almighty unfolds in straight-on narrative style. Don't look for psychological interpretations. It's pure gospel.

Sanborn's mettle as an actor shows in the well-defined characterizations he gives to his leading characters: the youthfully reverent David, the troubled King Saul, and the gravitas-laden narrator. He embodies supporting roles with celebrity impressions. For example, Goliath is a comically blustering Arnold Schwarzenegger, Samuel a stammering Jimmy Stewart, and Nathan the Prophet is Sean Connery. Sanborn's impersonations—sometimes on the mark, sometimes not—bring an occasionally distracting note of cartoonish frivolity to the storytelling. However, some of the best moments pulsate with a genuine sense of drama, as when David dances before the Ark, confronts the dissolute Saul, or grieves over his dying child.

The show also overflows with seductively lilting praise music in a pop evangelical style, and Sanborn sings it quite beautifully to lushly recorded orchestrations. "The Lord Is My Shepherd" sounds like Andrew Lloyd Webber channeling Barry Manilow.

Production values are all first-rate, including Elizabeth Richards' evocative costuming and unit set with its giant lyre behind an imposing throne, the lighting of Matthew Miller, and the ear-caressing sound design of Bernard Fox. Onn San is the orchestrator, and San and Don Stephens did the arrangements.

If you're in the mood for a gospel lesson, King David delivers it in about 70 minutes with theatrical savvy.

Presented by Sanborn Productions and Eastern Gate Entertainment in association with Dan and Margaret Drost and Joseph Callari
at the Promise Theater, 316 E. 91st St., NYC.
Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 8 p.m.
(212) 352 3101, (866) 811-4111, Theater Mania, or King David.

New York Times Review

With a Psalm (and a Song) in His Heart: Biblical Tales


"King David," a one-man musical based on the Books of Samuel, stars David M. Sanborn, one of the show’s authors, at the Promise Theater.

Published: April 28, 2009

The appeal of Scripture springs eternal, something Broadway and Hollywood have exploited for decades. Now there’s David M. Sanborn — an actor from a family of past and present Christian relief workers — who has brought his one-man musical, “King David,” to the Promise Theater, infusing the Books of Samuel with the aesthetics of both.

The idea of this family-friendly show — the book and songs are a collaboration between the good-looking, hard-working Mr. Sanborn and his mother, Ellen, who also directed it — involves Mr. Sanborn’s impersonating Hollywood actors (like Jimmy Stewart, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sean Connery) as he inhabits the figures in the life of David (including Saul, Goliath, the prophet Nathan and others).

Many of the renditions are spot-on, while others are less so. Some of the caricaturesque voices are the actor’s own creations. Helping to suggest antiquity are Elizabeth Richards’s simple but effective set and costumes.

But this is a musical, so there are songs, here set to prerecorded music and overflowing with lush arrangements, to say nothing of Mr. Sanborn’s impassioned vocals onstage. The actor, who has been touring with this production for 12 years, draws from a seemingly limitless well of feeling and makes the story wet, really wet, with emotion, especially in the musical numbers. You’ve never heard David suffer like this over the loss of his child by Bathsheba nor his anguished pleas for divine forgiveness. Except maybe in Las Vegas.

Inspirational pop can tend toward overwrought uplift, and so do the songs in “King David.” But families with a taste for this sort of thing will love it. Those seeking additional transcendence after the performance can look forward to “Judah Ben-Hur,” also starring Mr. Sanborn, which he has said he hopes to bring to Broadway in 2010.

“King David” continues through June 27 at the Promise Theater, 316 East 91st Street, Manhattan; (212) 352-3101,

Broadway After Dark Review


Theater with Pat O'Haire

May 10, 2009

The only thing most people know about David, the legendary King of the Jews in ancient times, is the story of how he, a teenaged soldier in a war against the Philistine invaders, met up with and confronted Goliath, biggest and baddest member of the enemy’s army, and, armed with his faith in God and nothing more than the most primitive of weapons - a slingshot and a few stones - slew the nine-foot-tall giant.

It was an action so unexpected that the enemy was thrown into panic, threw down their arms, turned around and ran away.

It is an awesome story as related in the book of Samuel, one of the earliest books of the Bible, and has been repeated often through the years in books and shown in many films, taught in schools and told so often that it has become legend.

But David was more than just a lucky youngster able to win a war with a slingshot. He quickly became a popular leader of his people, the Jews of ancient times, and eventually one of their greatest kings. Far from frivolous, he managed to unite the often-warring tribes of Israel, coerced them into a peaceful union, established Jerusalem as their capital, rescued the Ark of the Covenant and built a sanctuary for it. He was also a musician, played the lyre, composed hymns and sang them and wrote many of the psalms that made their way into the Bible.

It is that David that is being depicted in an unusual one-man musical show, acted, co-written, sung and danced by actor-singer and mimic David Sanborn, now at the Promise Theater, a handsome Off Broadway venue on 91st St., between First and Second Aves.

What Sanborn and his director and co-writer (who is also his mother, Ellen) have done is populated the stage with the voices of some well-known, easily-identified stars, whose words come from the Bible but whose voices come from the young Sanborn – Goliath, for example, sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger. The elder Samuel, the reporter covering the events, sounds like Jimmy Stewart; the prophet Nathan has Sean Connery’s Scottish burr and one of the King’s servants sounds like Keanu Reeves.

It’s an interesting, quite original, way to tell a story, as the narrative leads its way through peace and war, marriage, the birth and loss of a son, through politics, assassination attempts, celebrations, questions of faith and reconciliation with God.

It is an ambitious undertaking, and, for the most part, it succeeds. Sanborn is an engaging actor with a pleasant voice; the songs, all written by him, fit the mood of the period and his impersonations are accomplished. The use of well-known voices to replace live characters is an interesting concept, but unfortunately, it is difficult to remember exactly who the characters are when they all come from the same throat. He does well with all of them, but the concept might work better if there were fewer.

The stage is bare, for the most part, except for a large chair which seems to have been made of stone and covered by a single stretched-out canvas, which seems to be ready to set sail at any moment. The simple stage and costume design is by Elizabeth Richards, Bernard Fox did the sound design and Matthew Miller handled the lighting, all of which worked very well. The Sanborn family, it would seem, has managed to do everything else, and they did it with apparent ease and dispatch.

Reflections In The Light Review

A Guest Review
By Rich Swingle
We saw our friend, David Sanborn's one-man musical, King David, Off-Broadway at The Promise Theatre.

The New York Times was right! It's a "first-rate" production. He does impersonations of one Hollywood superstar after the next. As fun as the impersonations were, there were moments where he was deeply emotionally connected. Despite having performed it since April (quite a nice run for these parts), there were times that his face was drenched with tears. At other times he's like a little kid playing in a sandbox.

In these days of so many distractions I always feel so rewarded by the intense focus and energy it takes to perform a one-man play. David made me appreciate it from another angle: I forget it takes focus and energy to follow a one-man play! We become so used to the artists providing all the details, but there's something akin to reading a novel that happens when the brain gets a chance to fill in some of the gaps in solo theatre.

David and his mother, Ellen, chose their cuts judiciously from Christian and Jewish translations of First and Second Samuel, and they've found a great dramatic arc from his confrontation with Goliath to the birth of Solomon. They've interspersed it all with Davidic psalms set to music which delightfully foreshadows the Sanborns' musical, Judah Ben Hur, advertised as coming to Broadway in the fall of 2010.

Non Professional Reviews
Many people have posted unsolicited reviews on the New York Times Website and elsewhere.  We felt this would be a good place to duplicate what has been said. King David was given 4.5 out of 5 stars from 33 votes. The New York Times site has recently removed the email addresses and names of the people who posted the following reviews.

It is an awesome show!, June 17, 2009
David Sanborn/the actor is excellent at performing this one man show! It is very, very well done! I would highly recommend seeing it. It is very funny and entertaining. A fun night spent.

Excellent, June 13, 2009
An excellent and original show that we enjoyed immensly. Hope that many people will go see it. A show of this quality should be seen during this day and age when shows can be so negative or filled with awful content. This takes the cake.

Brilliance and Bravery, May 03, 2009
In a town 'overwrought' with musicals full of fluff or obscenity, it's refreshing to see one which offers just the opposite... depth of script and character AND good, clean entertainment. It takes not only brilliant performing to make this kind of entertainment a reality but it also takes bravery to present truth to theater patrons from all walks of life and jaded journalists. Thank you, David Sanborn, for providing moving moments, hilarious impressions, truth and fun for those of us unswayed by jaded journalism who just want to be entertained and to leave the theater feeling the kind of satisfaction felt after a filling and nutritious meal. Brilliant... and brave! Thank you for a great show! Everyone should see this... especially families.

Extraordinary!, May 01, 2009
I don't usually write endorsements, but today I cannot help myself! Recently I had the joy of attending a performance of King David, a musical described as a heart-warming musical celebration of faith for the entire family. I am happy to say that the description perfectly fits the event!
Let me tell you why I recommend that you go see this. First of all, the script is actual word-for-word Scripture. David Sanborn, the gifted and talented actor who performs this one-man play, has memorized vast portions of 1st and 2nd Samuel as well as a number of the Psalms.
In a nutshell, the musical tells the story of King David's life, highlighting some of the key events such as his anointing by Nathan the prophet, his battle with Goliath and his sin and repentance after the incident with Bathsheba
Now, I don't want you to think that the play is overly serious either. David Sanborn is a superb impressionist, and has given many of the characters the personality and voice of some of our famous personalities such as Jimmy Stewart, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Billy Crystal and more!
The original music is melodic and well-performed by David Sanborn, who grew up in Thailand.
It is a story for all people, and particularly dear to Jews and Christians alike.

Delighted by David, April 29, 2009
This show is a feast of emotion. It is beautiful in every way. It will benefit anyone who is hungry for a spiritual uplift. I highly recommend it!

A great talent, April 24, 2009
David Sanborn brings his many talents together in this show.

a wonderful show, April 23, 2009
This is a terrific show- not only wonderful musically and entertaining but also historically accurate ( down to actually using 100% King David's own words from the King James translation of the Old Testament). Mr. Sanborn is one of very few actors who own the stage and enthrall the audience from the moment they step on it. And when he opens his mouth to sing. you are further astonished - truly the quality of the show is so far above and beyond the ussual offerings of off -Broadway- but then again, Mr. Sanborn is a Broadway star. He is also extremely good looking and very charismatic- necessary qualities to bring a charcter to life who was a commmoner extraodinary enough to displace a crown prince and eventually rule many years as wise and beloved king ( and original artist) - one of the most fascinating characters of history. This is great show to bring children to- it truly brings history to life in a very entertaining and accessible way while also providing enough fact and emotion to engage even a scholar of David's time. I really enjoyed it and so did the rest of the audience - we were truly blown away by the quality and we can't wait to see Mr. Sanborn on the broadway stage in the fall of 2010 in Judah Ben -Hur.

David is King, April 23, 2009
King David is an inspiration!! If you have the chance to get out and experience this show, do it! David Sanborn is captivating throughout as he delivers a multitude of impressions without losing the true message of David the King. It's amazing this show has been taken entirely from scripture because it's just as relevant today as it's ever been. Get out, see this, and be ready to be moved!!

Interesting concept, spectacular star, April 23, 2009
King David is a fascinating look into a character most people only know in a very one-dimensional way -- as the shepherd boy who fought Goliath, but David and Ellen Sanborn's musical, King David, shows the intricacies, triumphs, and struggles of one of history's most important and intriguing leaders whose influence is still felt today in both political and religious ways. Actor David Sanborn flawlessly moves from character to character in this fast-paced story, and his singing ability is amazing. Even his dancing is good! The music was lush and I can't wait to get the CD! This musical should be enjoyable to people of all spiritual stripes or even no stripes. If you love either history or good theater, you will enjoy it. And as for David Sanborn, I expect we will be seeing him in the theater world for a very long time to come. A star is surely rising; bring on his well-deserved ascent.

WOW!!!, April 23, 2009
King David is an AMAZING show!!!! David M. Sanborn is SO talented...his impersonations are incredible and really make the story come to life!!! This is a Sunday school lesson like you've never heard it before.....If you haven't seen it yet, you're missing out!!!!

Pure Talent, April 23, 2009
David M. Sanborn is an incredibly gifted and talented performer. His retelling of the story of King David was comical, heart-wrenching, reverent and praise-filled. His impersonations were dead on. The songs added depth and dimension to the show. The set was beautiful. The audience participation was surprisingly refreshing. The vocal stylings and acting skills by Sanborn were elite. Everyone must see this show! I plan to see it again.

Sanborn is a Tour De Force!, April 23, 2009
David M Sanborn is a Tour De Force in the musical KING DAVID. God has gifted Sanborn with a voice that makes the angels pale, acting talent that will get Hollywood buzzing and graceful dancing that would make Gene Kelly proud. How one man can make such a memorable performance is nothing less than a miracle! This show had me laughing, crying and glued to the edge of my seat wanting more. The biblical hero KING DAVID comes alive in a way that will leave you cheering!

See Sanborn!, April 23, 2009
I'll make this short and sweet. See Sanborn. David M. Sanborn stars in a beautifully produced one man show about King David. He is a multi-talented and charismatic young performer who charms the audience with his lovely voice and stage presence. I predict a bright future for this talented young man...and I observed that it is a wonderful show to bring children to because of the animated nature of Mr. Sandborn's presentation. It is worth a look-see. Earl Wilson, Jr.

Many Voices of God, April 23, 2009
David Sanborn is a unique and special talent. I saw his King David show in Tennessee and was in total awe of how such a new young talent appeared so accomplished. It was amazing. It is evident that many long hours, sweat, and tears have gone into this performance. The show is very fast paced and engaging. Regardless of the powerful spiritual message, I recommend it as a must see for everyone who appreciates great entertainment!

Phenomenal!!!!, April 22, 2009
I cried, I laughed, I was moved! David's performance is utterly extraordinary! Everyone NEEDS to see this performance. This kind of show comes along once in a century!!!

Amazing, April 22, 2009
It's about time someone brought something truly moving to the New York theater scene. Thank you David Sanborn for touching my heart with your voice, energy and passion.

Fantastic, April 22, 2009
I loved it. I laughed and cried. An incredibly clean theater too.

a feel-good musical, April 21, 2009
If you want to laugh with delight and be moved deeply, this is a one-of-a-kind, family-friendly musical that will not disappoint.

Annalyse Maston (
I Loved It, April 19, 2009
I had seen David M. Sanborn perform the 10-minute "teaser" of his one-man show "King David" several times, and each time left me hungry for more. When I was fortunate enough to see the entire thing, I was not disappointed! I could say that Sanborn is as talented a performer as I have ever seen, or that his impersonations are hilarious and accurate, or that his vocal talent is top-notch. All of these things are true, but insufficient to really describe the quality of his performance or express how much I thoroughly enjoyed the content of this show. I loved the fact that from start to finish, there was nothing inappropriate - he didn't need to rely on vulgarity and innuendos to get laughs, but was able to get a response from the audience by the quality of the performance. I was familiar with the story and historical figure of King David, but I was unprepared for the creative and real way Sanborn presented his life. I would recommend anyone and everyone see this phenomenal show - you will not be disappointed!

The Promise Theatre is like no off-Broadway theatre I have ever seen! It was newly remodeled, and is clean and beautiful. The seats were so comfortable, I would have happily sat for several more hours watching David M. Sanborn's incredible performance. I was shocked by the bathrooms - they are maintained and cleaned regularly. This is no "black box" theatre! The Promise Theatre was the perfect setting to enjoy Sanborn's incredible one-man show, "King David". With the quality of the performance, show, and surroundings, it doesn't get much better than this!

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Last Updated: March 2010