Warming Up: Brian d'Arcy James and Pals Begin Harmony Workshop Aug. 9

News   Warming Up: Brian d'Arcy James and Pals Begin Harmony Workshop Aug. 9
The boys of Harmony, the new Barry Manilow Bruce Sussman musical about the Comedian Harmonists singing group, begin vocalizing Aug. 9 in rehearsals for a workshop of the Broadway-aimed show.
Brian d'Arcy James
Brian d'Arcy James Photo by Aubrey Reuben

The full company begins rehearsals Aug. 16. Private industry presentations are Sept. 9-10.

The Weimar-era singing group, which splintered as the Nazis rose to power, is recreated by Brian d'Arcy James, David Turner, David Ayers, Thom Christopher Warren, Bradley Dean and Aaron Lazar.

All but Ayers were rehearsed and ready for a pre-Broadway run in Philadelphia in late 2003 when the show's producer announced he didn't have enough money to bring the show to life.

The production and its hopes for Broadway shut down immediately. Composer Manilow and lyricist-librettist Sussman fought in 2004 to regain control of their material — and did. Now, new producers are shepherding the musical memory play to a potential commercial life.

Stephen R. Buntrock was not available to recreate his 2003 work in this current workshop. Also returning under David Warren's direction are Kate Baldwin (as Mary, wife to James' character, Rabbi) and Janine LaManna (as Ruth, wife of Chopin, played by Ayers). *

The show is now back on a Broadway track with a new producing team, a fresh design and a refocused script, Playbill On-Line previously reported.

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. Director David Warren's current New York work is Steven Dietz's Fiction. 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 on Broadway.

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."

"Five of the six guys who were The Harmonists will be back," David Warren told Playbill's Harry Haun. "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]."

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