Harmony, a new show by Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman, premiered at the Alliance Theatre at the Woodruff on Sunday. It’s about the Comedian Harmonists, the first world famous boy band. They performed from 1928 until 1934 when their music collided with Hitler and the Third Reich.
I’ll be honest… I didn’t know what to expect before the curtain went up. I had googled the show before I went, read through press releases, and researched the Comedian Harmonists, but I didn’t know what a Barry Manilow musical would be like. How would soft-rock translate to a Broadway-style musical?
I immediately knew I was in for a musical treat as the orchestra began tuning their instruments before the show. There was nothing soft-rock or pop going on tonight. This was classic Broadway. Manilow explained the musical change in an interview with the New York Times: “I’ve been kind of imprisoned in the pop music world, very happily, but there are these rules that you need to adhere to in pop music. There is a certain brick wall that you hit. But this gave me the opportunity to go way, way beyond what I’ve been doing for 30 years.”
And did Barry Manilow deliver? I think he hit the ball clear out of the ballpark. Several songs are still stuck in my head and I’ve been belting out “Where You Go” in the shower for the past three days.
So, what about the play overall? I was in tears by the end of the show. Its message is incredibly powerful, the direction was engaging, and the choreography efficiently conveyed the strong emotions radiating from the show’s lyrics and score. However, I do think the show took a little too long to jump into the real meat and potatoes of the story. But once the ball gets rolling in this production there is absolutely no stopping it.
The show also features talented members of our gay community. I would like to specifically point out Douglas Williams, who plays Bobby Biberti. Williams sings bass in the Comedian Harmonists and he’s an absolute theatre dreamboat on stage. His voice is like butter and he’s one tall drink of water. You definitely don’t want to miss the scene where he and the other 5 Comedian Harmonists do a musical number in their underwear.
Although there are no gay characters in the show there are several references to homosexuality. In fact, the song “Your Son Is Becoming A Singer!” so closely parallels the coming out process that I forgot midway through the song that the character Erich was coming out as a singer and not coming out as gay.
Conclusion? GO SEE THIS SHOW! Broadway has left the great white way and is sitting pretty on Peachtree.
Here’s a taste of the show:
And here is a video of Barry Manilow singing Harmony’s love song Every Single Day: