Barry Manilow’s musical Harmony debuts on Broadway after years of fine-tuning

The long-awaited musical Harmony, written by legendary singer-songwriter Barry Manilow and his longtime collaborator Bruce Sussman, finally made its Broadway debut on November 14, 2023, after more than three decades of development. The show, which tells the true story of the Comedian Harmonists, a German vocal group that rose to fame in the 1920s and 1930s before being banned by the Nazis, received a standing ovation from the audience at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.

A musical journey from obscurity to Broadway

Harmony is based on the remarkable but forgotten story of the Comedian Harmonists, who were considered one of the first boy bands in history. They recorded dozens of albums, starred in several movies, and performed in sold-out venues around the world, blending classical, jazz, and pop music with humor and harmony. However, their success was cut short by the rise of Hitler and the Nazi regime, which denounced them as degenerates and forbade their music. Three of the six members were Jewish, and they had to flee Germany and eventually disband.

Barry Manilow’s musical Harmony debuts on Broadway after years of fine-tuning
Barry Manilow’s musical Harmony debuts on Broadway after years of fine-tuning

Manilow and Sussman first learned about the group from a German documentary in the late 1980s, and were captivated by their story and their music. They decided to write a musical about them, and spent years researching their lives and their songs. They also met with some of the surviving members and their families, who shared their personal stories and memories.

The musical was first staged in 1997 at the La Jolla Playhouse in California, where it received rave reviews and won several awards. However, it faced several challenges and setbacks in finding a suitable producer and a Broadway venue. It was revived in 2014 at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, and then in 2019 at the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene in New York, where it was a hit with critics and audiences alike. Finally, in 2023, it secured a Broadway run, with Tony Award winner Warren Carlyle as the director and choreographer.

A musical tribute to the Comedian Harmonists and their legacy

Harmony features a talented cast of six actors who play the Comedian Harmonists, as well as six actresses who play their love interests and other characters. The musical showcases some of the group’s most famous songs, such as “Whistle While You Work”, “Night and Day”, and “Stormy Weather”, as well as original songs written by Manilow and Sussman. The musical also explores the personal and professional struggles of the group, as they faced discrimination, censorship, and persecution under the Nazi regime.

Manilow and Sussman said that they wanted to honor the Comedian Harmonists and their legacy, and to share their story with a wider audience. They said that they felt a connection with the group, as they were also singers and songwriters who loved music and harmony. They also said that they hoped that the musical would inspire people to learn more about the group and their music, and to appreciate the power and beauty of harmony in a world that often lacks it.

A musical that resonates with today’s audiences

Harmony is not only a musical about the past, but also a musical that resonates with today’s audiences. The themes of the musical, such as love, friendship, courage, and resilience, are universal and timeless. The musical also addresses the issues of intolerance, oppression, and injustice, which are still relevant and prevalent in today’s society. The musical reminds us of the importance of standing up for what we believe in, and of celebrating our diversity and our humanity.

Harmony is a musical that celebrates the Comedian Harmonists and their music, but also a musical that celebrates the harmony that exists in all of us. It is a musical that invites us to sing along, to laugh, to cry, and to hope. It is a musical that tells us a story that we should never forget.

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