Broadway-Bound Barry Manilow Project Harmony Begins Casting for Florida Run

News   Broadway-Bound Barry Manilow Project Harmony Begins Casting for Florida Run Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman's long-in-development musical, Harmony, which has been actively courting a Broadway house since last fall, has begun casting for a pre-Broadway engagement in Florida.

As previously reported by Playbill On-Line, the show will play Fort Lauderdale's Parker Playhouse beginning Oct. 21 and run until Jan. 4, 2004. The plan is to reach Broadway by winter 2004.

David Warren, who has been with the project since 1997, is the director. Peter Pucci is doing the choreography and David Chase is musical director. Rehearsals for the Parker production will begin Sept. 1, according to a casting notice.

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.

The fortunes of Harmony may have been slowed by the failure that met the 1999 Broadway bow of Band in Berlin, another musical retelling of the Comedian Harmonists' tale. 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.