Following in the footsteps of Randy Newman, Paul Simon, Jimmy Buffett and other songwriters bringing their art to musical theatre, pop composer Barry Manilow has penned a new musical, Harmony, and it'll go up Oct. 19 at California's La Jolla Playhouse. Previews begin Oct. 7 for a run through Nov. 23.
Harmony is inspired by the true story of the Comedian Harmonists, six young men in 1920s Germany who rose from unemployed street musicians to become world-famous entertainers. While at the height of their fame, they played to sold-out shows in world-class concert halls, made a dozen films and sold millions of records. But the group's mixture of Jews and Gentiles inevitably led to clashes with the newly established Nazi party.
Bruce Sussman wrote the book and lyrics for Harmony, which will be directed by David Warren (Broadway's recent Summer And Smoke revival). Warren's last La Jolla project was Des McAnuff's Silent Edward in 1986.
Manilow, a Brooklyn native, wrote such pop hits as "Weekend In New England" and "Copacabana." His musical score for Off-Broadway's The Drunkard -- written when he was 18! -- ran for eight years. In 1994 he wrote the score for the Warner Brothers animated feature, Thumbelina. Sussman scored the Off Broadway musical Miami (book by Wendy Wasserstein) and Ted Tally play, Coming Attractions.
Michael Grief, artistic director of La Jolla Playhouse, wrote of the show, "I have been aware of and inspired by The Comedian Harmonists for many years. Indeed, my production of Machinal...was influenced by their sophisticated, urban style of music-making [in] diverse styles: jazz, classical and popular music of their day. Barry Manilow's music for Harmony captures that stylized, breakthrough sound." Manilow called the writing of Harmony "the most challenging and creative journey of my career... I have tried to probe in equal depth most every musical style I've ever loved. The first time we visited La Jolla Playhouse, I knew we had found a perfect home for our project."
Manilow told San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Michael Phillips, "It's not a rollicking farce, it's substantial subject matter. And hopefully very entertaining."
Sussman has said the show was about "finding redemption through remembering."
Managing director Terrence Dwyer wrote that "with Harmony, the Playhouse continues its long-standing commitment to popular composers and playwrights who are creating new works for the musical theatre. Harmony's world premiere is a great addition to our 50th anniversary season.
For tickets and information on Harmony and such other upcoming La Jolla projects as Rent, The School For Wives and The Model Apartment, call (619) 550-1010.