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“What did you say to him?” Manilow asked.
Smiling, Sussman answered: “I said, ‘A-men.’”
In the Snapple Theater Center, the actors and O’Neill worked out a few rough patches in the musical number they had been rehearsing. O’Neill said that he had decided to use a different chord at the end of a particular phrase. At the table, Sussman looked up from the script he had been studying and asked O’Neill if he was making this change based on something Manilow had suggested.
“Yeah,” O’Neill said.
Sussman nodded as if to say that this was the only thing that mattered — “Okay” — and then he went back to his script.
“All right,” O’Neill said. “Let’s call Barry in.”
Moments later, Manilow strode in with the assurance of a man used to being the center of attention in any room. The men stood upright, then turned their attention to their scores. O’Neill began to play.
“Harmony,” the Harmonists sang. “We sing in harmony. Like the robins in Leicester Square — Tweedle dee, tweedle dee dee dee dee dee.”
Whether they actually sounded like robins is open to some debate, but the harmony did, in fact, sound perfect. Manilow seemed to think so, too.
“You guys sound great,” he said as he started to head for the door. “You’re beginning to sound like a real group. We’re almost there, guys. We’re on our way.”
Harmony opens on September 6 and runs through October 6 at the Alliance Theatre, in Atlanta.
Adam Langer is the arts and culture editor of the Forward.