Harmony Review - Broadway musical“Harmony,” a musical about a German singing group upended by the rise of Nazism, will finally open on Broadway this fall with songs by Barry Manilow and his longtime collaborator, Bruce Sussman.
The show, which Manilow and Sussman have been developing for more than 25 years, tells the true story of a sextet that ran afoul of the Nazi regime because the group featured both Jewish and non-Jewish members. The ensemble was called the Comedian Harmonists.
“They represent everything I love — they’re a combination of The Manhattan Transfer and the Marx Brothers, with complicated harmonies — and funny as hell,” said Manilow, who wrote the show’s music. “When we dug into it, it just killed me: Why don’t we know about them?”
Sussman, who wrote the book and lyrics, said the show was “about the quest for harmony in what turned out to be the most discordant chapter in human history.”
Musicals often take a long time to reach Broadway, but “Harmony” has had a particularly protracted journey. The show was first staged in 1997, at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, and since then has had productions, with varying creative teams and casts: in 2013 at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta, in 2014 at the Center Theater Group in Los Angeles, and last year at the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York. There have been previous efforts to bring the show to Broadway, including a planned 2004 production that fell apart over a lack of funds.
“We’re not letting go of this,” Manilow said. “We knew we had something that was special, even though we kept hitting brick walls.”
The show is arriving at a time when antisemitism has become, once again, a growing concern in the United States and beyond; the issue is currently explored on Broadway in the play “Leopoldstadt” and the musical “Parade.” “It is sadly more resonant,” Sussman said, “with the rise of not only antisemitism but of autocrats around the world.”
The Comedian Harmonists have been explored by other storytellers in the past: There was a 1997 movie, “The Harmonists,” and an unsuccessful 1999 musical, “Band in Berlin.” This latest musical is based in part on a historical archive compiled by Peter Czada.
The Broadway production will be directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, who won a Tony Award for choreographing “After Midnight,” and who also helmed last year’s “Harmony” production with the National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. The Broadway cast has not yet been announced.
The production is scheduled to start previews on Oct. 18 and to open on Nov. 13 at the Ethel Barrymore Theater. The lead producers are Ken Davenport, Sandi Moran and Garry Kief.
Last Update:November, 20th 2023