Barry Manilow's musical Harmony is not exactly having a harmonic convergence at CA's La Jolla Playhouse. Because of "technical stuff" (the words of spokesperson Joshua Ellis), the show canceled its first two previews, Oct. 7 & 8, and didn't begin until Oct. 9. Also, Charles Moulton, the show's choreographer, has left the project over "artistic differences with regard to how to complete the choreography of the show."
The press statement goes on to say Moulton, by name, will remain the official choreographer of Harmony because of the work he's already done. However, completing the show will be assistant choreographers Arte Phillips and Ilene Bergelson. (Another theatre website had reported that Jerry Mitchell, of "Broadway Bares" renown, was to be the new choreographer, but that rumor has been called false by production spokesperson Ellis. Phillips has as much experience in front of the curtain as behind it; he's appeared in Victor/Victoria, Once Upon A Mattress and Grand Hotel. Bergelson appeared in the Athol Fugard drama, My Life.
Said Ellis about the show's bumps, "It's a world premiere. A musical that's never been done before, so things happen."
Manilow follows in the footsteps of Randy Newman, Paul Simon, Jimmy Buffett and other songwriters bringing their art to musical theatre. Bruce Sussman has penned 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. Charlie Moulton will choreograph; Ralph Burns (Sweet Charity, Funny Girl) will provide the orchestrations. Danny Burstein, of Off Broadway's I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, will also be in the Harmony cast as "Rabbi."
A Tony nominee for playing Magnolia in Show Boat, Rebecca Luker stars as Mary. (In a few months, Luker will drop the "y" and add an "ia", when she'll play the lead role in a Broadway revival of the The Sound Of Music.)
Jodi Stevens, recently in Broadway's Jekyll And Hyde, will play Marlene Dietrich, Thursday Farrar will play Josephin Baker, Scott Robertson will play Albert Einstein.
Also appearing in Harmony are Scott Robinson (not to be confused with the aforementioned Roberson), James Clow, Steven Goldstein, Jason Opsahl, Thom Christopher Warren, Patrick Wilson, Janet Metz, Trent DeLong, Christiane Farr-Wersinger, Pascale Faye, Sean Grant, Lisa Mayer, Jennifer Morris, Casey Nicholaw, Arte Phillips, Jessica Sheridan, Tom Titone, Kurt Ziskie and Kiersten Van Horne.
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 "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.
Designing Harmony are Derek McLane (sets), Ken Posner (lighting), Mark Wendland (costumes) and Steve Canyon Kennedy (sound).
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 call (619) 550-1010.