Manilow and Sussman's Harmony Is Back in Business as a Broadway-Bound Musical

News   Manilow and Sussman's Harmony Is Back in Business as a Broadway-Bound Musical Harmony, the once-Broadway-bound musical by Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman, is now back on a Broadway track with a new producing team, a fresh design and a refocused script, Playbill On-Line learned.
Brian d'Arcy James
Brian d'Arcy James

Rehearsals for a four-week workshop begin Aug. 9, reuniting most of the company that rehearsed the show in late 2003 toward what was to be a holiday-season Philadelphia run prior to a spring 2004 Broadway bow. That 2003 incarnation of the show shuttered before it was born when the now former producer announced he didn't have the financing for it.

Harmony is based on the real-life tale of the Comedian Harmonists, a vocal group in Germany in the 1920s and '30s, around the time Hitler was rising to power. Music is by Manilow, book and lyrics by Sussman.

Coats Guiles, one of the new producers, told Playbill On-Line most of the principal company is back, including Tony Award nominee Brian d'Arcy James as Rabbi, the narrator of the show. David Warren (Fiction) again directs. David Chase returns as musical director.

The forced time off led the creators to "reimagine" and "refocus" the show in a way that makes it "sharper and tighter," Guiles said.

Painful as the interruption was, Guiles — who fell in love with the musical at a reading — said every show should have a chance to "stop, take a breath and look at itself." Private industry presentations take place Sept. 9 and 10 in Manhattan. Guiles said the show is aiming for a spring 2005 run.

The new producing team is Coats Guiles and Daniel Karslake of the Atticus Group, Beth Smith, Tara Schoen Fishman. Emanuel Azenberg is the general manager.

Guiles said the Harmony he and his producing partners inherited was a literal translation of the story of the Harmonists, with sets and costumes literally representing the time and place.

Since late 2003, the creative team has made the show "less literal, more theatrical."

Scenic designer Derek McLane has reconceived the look of the show since he was attached last year. "It's a memory piece, so it's abstract," Guiles said.

The company of 18 includes a slightly smaller ensemble than in 2003.

Of the previous incarnation, Guiles said, "It would have been effective as it was but we've come to see that it's much better [now]. A couple of numbers Barry wanted to reconceive and he's [been able] to do that."

David Warren told Playbill On-Line columnist Harry Haun "most of the cast who was involved before will be returning," including Brian d'Arcy James, Janine LaManna, Kate Baldwin, David Turner and Aaron Lazar.

"Five of the six guys who were The Harmonists will be back," Warren said. "David Ayers, who's in Fiddler on the Roof, is the one new guy because Stephen Buntrock can't make it [due to a commitment outside the show]."

Also in the workshop will be Bradley Dean and Thom Christopher Warren, who were Harmonists in 2003.