Brian D'Arcy James in Talks to Head Cast of Manilow's Broadway-Bound Harmony

News   Brian D'Arcy James in Talks to Head Cast of Manilow's Broadway-Bound Harmony Brian D'Arcy James will likely be the star of Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman's long-in-development musical, Harmony, which will have its pre-Broadway engagement at Philadelphia's Forrest Theatre, beginning Nov. 25.

James confirmed that he was in negotiations to play the lead role of Rabbi. He was last seen on Broadway as desperate press agent Sidney Falco in Sweet Smell of Success. Other credits include Titanic and Off-Broadway's The Wild Party and The Good Thief.

Stephen Buntrock and Kate Baldwin are also expected to be in the cast of the musical. Buntrock replaced Patrick Wilson in the recent Broadway revival of Oklahoma!. He was also in Broadway's Jane Eyre. Baldwin made a big impression in a 2002 D.C. production of South Pacific at Arena Stage, and had been mentioned as a possibility for Paper Mill's upcoming The Sound of Music.

No official casting announcement has yet been released.

The Philly premiere replaced a previously-announced run at Fort Lauderdale's Parker Playhouse, which was to have begun Oct. 21 and run until Jan. 4, 2004. David Warren will direct Harmony.

The plan remains to reach Broadway by winter 2004. A theatre is yet to be announced. Harmony is being produced by Mark Schwartz, in association with Garry C. Kief, Brent Peek and executive producer Richard Jay-Alexander. At last report, Peter Pucci is doing the choreography and David Chase is musical director.

Harmony played the La Jolla Playhouse in the fall of 1997 with plans to come to Broadway. Rebecca Luker and Danny Burstein starred in the California production. Warren directed. Producers at SFX had once hoped to bring the show to Broadway in spring 1999, but the lack of an appropriate theatre made that impossible, and the starting date was pushed back to fall 1999. However, when fall came, all that emerged was a December backers' audition starring Christiane Noll. David Warren was still at the helm, although with an assist by La Jolla Playhouse's Des McAnuff. At one point in 2001, Manilow was trying to convince Chicago's Goodman Theater to stage the show. After that, the trail went dead.

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.

Manilow, a Brooklyn native, wrote such pop hits as "Mandy" and "Copacabana." He penned a musical score for Off-Broadway's The Drunkard when he was 18. 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.