Barry Manilow Returns To His Jewish and Broadway Roots With 'Harmony'

Singer-Songwriter Is Ready To Take a Chance Again

He Wrote These Songs: Barry Manilow has been singing songs from his musical “Harmony” during his most recent tour.
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He Wrote These Songs: Barry Manilow has been singing songs from his musical “Harmony” during his most recent tour.

By Adam Langer

Published August 08, 2013, issue of August 16, 2013.

At a few minutes before 2 p.m., the mood in the Snapple Theater Center was loose, the ambiance casual bordering on schlumpy. In a low-ceilinged rehearsal room, there was a long table cluttered with papers, three-ring binders and Diet Cokes. A stage manager typed away on a laptop. A box of Cheez-It crackers and a pump dispenser of hand sanitizer stood on what passed for a craft services table. An air conditioner clunk-clunk-clunked away.

In front of an upright piano where assistant music director John O’Neill was building chords and picking out notes, a half-dozen male actors in jeans and sneakers slouched in front of their music stands and horsed around. A carton of coconut water at his feet, Wayne Alan Wilcox — you may remember him as Marty on “Gilmore Girls” or as Gordon in the film version of “Rent”— pretended to hump one of his fellow actors as he sang a song called “Every Single Day.”

“Every single daaaaay,” he crooned while he thrusted. “We’ll remember what we do todaaaaaay. Words we didn’t saaaaaay we’ll remember every single daaaaaay.”

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If those lyrics seem familiar, it might be because you’ve heard Barry Manilow sing them on his most recent tour. The song tends to turn up between his cover version of Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and “Lay Me Down,” from Manilow’s 1975 album “Tryin’ To Get the Feeling.” He also performed it earlier this year at New York’s St. James Theater, as part of his “Manilow on Broadway” show.

Striking a Chord: The cast and creative team at the first rehearsals for ‘Harmony’ by Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman.
John Maley
Striking a Chord: The cast and creative team at the first rehearsals for ‘Harmony’ by Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman.

That may have been the first time “Every Single Day” was sung on a Broadway stage. But at the rehearsal, the unspoken hope was that the song will wind up there again, perhaps as early as next year, as part of “Harmony,” a musical that has been an obsession of Manilow and one of his longtime writing partners, Bruce Sussman, for the better part of two decades. The musical concerns the Comedian Harmonists, a sextet of male German singers — some Jewish, some not — who rose to fame in the 1920s and ’30s but had their careers crushed by the Nazis. The subject matter seems just about as far from “Mandy” and “I Write the Songs” as one could imagine, but both Manilow and Sussman have said that the project speaks to their Jewish upbringings and to their love of musical theater.

“Harmony” premiered in California in 1997, where it opened to middling reviews; plans to eventually bring it to Broadway were sidetracked by financial troubles and a protracted legal battle with one of the show’s original producers. At one point, Manilow was hospitalized for stress that was attributed to the fight over “Harmony.” Now that Manilow and Sussman once again have the rights to the musical, they will be opening a new version of the show, this time directed by Tony Speciale, former associate artistic director of the Classic Stage Company in September at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre. Then in 2014, onward to the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. And after that, well, as Sussman puts it, “Keyn’e hore.”



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