Manilow Musical Harmony Targets Broadway in Spring 1999

News   Manilow Musical Harmony Targets Broadway in Spring 1999
Harmony, the new Barry Manilow musical, will go directly to the Great White Way, eschewing the pre-Broadway engagements as had been previously considered.

Harmony, the new Barry Manilow musical, will go directly to the Great White Way, eschewing the pre-Broadway engagements as had been previously considered.

PACE Theatricals had been saying that the show would not open cold in New York, but would be mounted somewhere else before hitting Gotham. PACE President Scott Zieger told Playbill On-Line May 28, however, that plans had changed and Harmony would proceed directly to Broadway for a projected spring 1999 opening.

No theatre or cast have been announced.

Harmony ended its extended run at CA's La Jolla Playhouse on Nov. 30. Rebecca Luker and Danny Burstein starred in the CA production, wherein Manilow follows in the footsteps of Randy Newman, Paul Simon, Jimmy Buffett and other songwriters bringing their art to musical theatre. Bruce Sussman penned the book and lyrics for Harmony, which was directed at La Jolla by David Warren. Warren's last La Jolla project was Des McAnuff's Silent Edward in 1986. Ralph Burns (Sweet Charity, Funny Girl) provided the orchestrations.

A Tony nominee for playing Magnolia in Show Boat, Rebecca Luker appeared as Mary. She's now playing the lead role in a Broadway revival of the The Sound Of Music. Danny Burstein, of Off-Broadway's I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, was also in the Harmony cast as "Rabbi." At La Jolla, Jodi Stevens, recently in Broadway's Jekyll And Hyde, played Marlene Dietrich, Thursday Farrar played Josephin Baker, Scott Robertson played Albert Einstein.

Also appearing in Harmony were Scott Robinson (not to be confused with the aforementioned Robertson), James Clow, Steven Goldstein, Mark Chmiel (replacing 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." He wrote 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.

Designing Harmony will be 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."

--By Robert Simonson and David Lefkowitz

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