The real-life vocal sextet, the Hudson Shad, will impersonate the historic Comedian Harmonists, the popular German singing act at the center of the Broadway bound Band in Berlin. Susan Feldman's play with music is due to begin performances at Broadway's Helen Hayes Theatre Feb. 19, 1999 for an opening Mar. 7, 1999.
The Comedian Harmonists were a six-member, male vocal outfit with a smooth, lighthearted elegance influenced by such well-known American groups of the era as the Mills Brothers and the Texas Revellers. They achieved immense popularity in the 1920s, in Germany, Europe and the U.S. Their luck ran out, however, with the rise of the Third Reich. Hitler demanded the group's three Jewish members be banished. Eventually, the group was forced to disband.
The Harmonists will be played by Mark Bleeke, as bass Leshnikoff; Timothy Leigh Evans, as second tenor Collin; Hugo Munday, as lyric baritone Frommermann; Peter Becker, as baritone Cykowski; Wilbur Pauley as bass Biberti; and Robert Wolinsky as pianist Bootz. Also in the cast is Herbert Rubens, again as Roman Cykowski, who acts as the story's narrator. The play will be directed and choreographed by Patricia Birch, whose musical staging credits range from Grease to Pacific Overtures . Robert V. Strauss, Jeff Ash and Randall Wreghitt will produce.
Berlin played the American Music Theatre Festival March 11-22, 1998, at the WHYY Forum Theatre in Philadelphia. It featured the sextet Hudson Shad, and was co-directed by Feldman and Birch, and choreographed by Birch.
Band in Berlin utilizes multimedia elements (including film, projections and shadow puppetry) and features songs that became closely identified with the Harmonists -- "Stormy Weather," "Night and Day," "Tea for Two," "Whistle While You Work," Duke Ellington's "Creole Love Call" and even a vocal "arrangement" of the overture to The Barber of Seville.