Why I’m producing Harmony by Bruce Sussman and Barry Manilow.

If this is the first you’re hearing about this musical coming to New York, then you gotta follow me here . . . because that’s where I announce a lot of the fun stuff.

But let me recap . . .

On Friday night, at about 9:15, Barry Manilow announced from the stage of his Broadway residency that Harmony, the musical he co-wrote with Bruce Sussman, would make its New York debut at the famed NYTF (the same theater that birthed the current and magnificent Fiddler revival) in February of 2020.

And I’m thrilled to be the Commercial Producer partnering with the NYTF to make this happen.

Barry teased this in Vegas a few months ago (which we also caught on video here), but I’m so excited that it’s finally public . . . and you can even get tickets for it now.

So what got me “singing” Harmony?  I’ll tell you, as I always do when I sign on to a show . . .

First, if you saw Gettin’ The Band Back Together, then you know I’m a big Barry Manilow fan, and always have been.  (Someday I’ll tell you the story of how Gettin’ The Band led me to Harmony, which is one for the books, and one of the greatest lessons of my life.)

Second, I am a fan of all-guy harmony groups.  Having been a performer in the musical Forever Plaid 4x and having seen the success of my own Altar Boyz, as well as Jersey Boys (and the boy-band/harmony genre in general), I’ve always known that audiences have a thing for seeing groups of guys sing and dance in groups.  (In fact, we now manage this killer group that knocks ’em dead all over the country.)

Third, the score to this sucker is outstanding.  But it’s Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman . . . are you surprised?  They write the songs.  Literally.  So when you come to Harmony, one of the things I will guarantee are some effin’ melodies and rich lyrics that will crawl into your ear and never come out (like that thing in Wrath of Khan, for you Trekkies out there).

Lastly, I signed on to this show because of the story.  That’s the most important thing in musicals, even if the music gets all the attention.  Without a roller coaster ride of a well-told story (as we talked about on Friday), you can forget me (and most audiences) ever getting involved.

Harmony is about a little known group called The Comedian Harmonists . . . one of the most successful musical groups in Europe in the years leading up to World War II.  Why is so little known about them?  Well, they were from Germany.  And the group was half Jewish and half Gentile.  And most every permanent “record” of their existence was destroyed.  Purposefully.

It’s a musical that tells the story of the rise of a guy group from a street corner to big stages all over the world, performing their big ol’ comedic production numbers with a sound you’ve gotta hear to believe – only to be broken apart in one of the most horrific times in the world’s history.

It had me laughing, singing along, and yeah, shedding more than a few tears . . . just after reading it.

And honestly?  It’s a story and a time and a place and a people that a guy with the last name of Davenport isn’t as familiar with as he should be.  But I want to be.  So once again, I’m producing something that I don’t know, on purpose.

And I’m thrilled to be partnering with the NYTF to bring this important and entertaining musical to downtown Manhattan . . . where you can see The Statue of Liberty from just outside the theater.

Barry, Bruce, and I hope to see you there.

Get tix now.

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Comments
  • Sandra Leach says:

    So excited this is finally hitting the NY stage! As a lifelong Fanilow, i’ve Always loved Barry’s music, his live performances and his love for his family & heritage. He’s teased audiences for years w/ his song “Every Single Day”. I burst into tears the first time I heard him perform it live, the story and the song strike a profound chord. Sadly, this story is more timely and relevant than ever. We all need a reminder of the lessons history has taught us, and if the musical score is Barry brilliant, even better. I can hardly wait for opening night, tickets in hand. Thank you to all who’ve helped bring Harmony to the greatest city in the world, under the watchful eye of the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of freedom and hope. This story needs to be told. Break a leg!

  • Karen says:

    So excited for Harmony to finally make its way to NYC!

  • Linda McTaggart says:

    Thank you Mr. Davenport for believing in this show. These amazing men, Barry and Bruce, are so deserving of this!! Harmony will get to Broadway!! I just know it!

  • Dawn says:

    Thank you for helping to bring Harmony to life in NY! It’s been a long journey, but Barry and Bruce never gave up. And we have been right there with them all along. I was lucky to see it in Atlanta. It was stunning. I cannot wait to see this production. I know it will brilliant.

  • Steven Goldstein says:

    I am a Barry Manilow fan second to none. I also have studied the Shoah and worked with survivors. That “Harmony” is coming to New York thrills me beyond belief. Ken, thank you for doing a wonderful thing for humanity here. BUT: I saw “Harmony” in 2014 at the Ahmanson on Los Angeles and thought it needed work. Barry and Bruce’s songs, which most of us hardcore Barry fans know by now, are SPECTACULAR. But the book for the musical. I.e. the stageplay, needed work — more than just a little work, in my view. That was also the view of the Los Angeles critics. I went into the show not wanting to believe them, because critics have been unfair to Barry over the years. In this one case, they were right.

  • Rob says:

    Atlanta Journal Constitution RAVE

    Theater review: Manilow’s ‘Harmony’ is a glorious work of art
    Posted: 12:44 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013

    By Wendell Brock – For the AJC

    They were a boy band who sang like angels and wrestled with demons. They struggled with each other, with their women, with the law. They even had trouble coming up with the right name to describe their gossamer sound. Success proved elusive at first, then overwhelming — and tragic.

    As a charismatic member of the pop group in question narrates its early history, introducing the singers one by one and describing how they came together, you may be reminded of a certain Broadway musical about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. With “Harmony: A New Musical” — which charts the rise and fall of an all-male ensemble in the dark days of Nazi Germany — Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman have created a virtual “Jersey Boys” for Jews.

    I mean that as a high compliment.

    A labor of love whose two-decade incubation period includes a short-lived run at California’s La Jolla Playhouse (1997) and a promised Broadway engagement that never transpired (2004), this biography of the nearly forgotten Comedian Harmonists is getting a glorious third chance at the Alliance Theatre.

    Though I admit being slightly disconcerted that the structure and subject matter so mirrored the foolproof “Jersey Boys” (which won the 2006 Tony Award for best musical), my reservations were ultimately transformed by Manilow’s virtuosic score; Sussman’s briskly paced book and engaging lyrics; and JoAnn M. Hunter’s dynamite choreography. (For the record, “Harmony” — impeccably directed here by Tony Speciale — is not a jukebox musical, but a wholly original work inspired by the intricate harmonies and syncopated rhythms of Berlin’s vaudeville heyday of the ’20s and ’30s.)

    Indeed, the script does feel a little formulaic at first, a little too heavy on safe laughs and one-liners. And while it would be impossible to render full portraits of all six Comedian Harmonists in an evening-long work, the roles of the foppish, chain-smoking Lesh (Will Blum), the magnificent baritone Bobby (Douglas Williams) and the sturdy Harry (Tony Yazbeck) feel a bit thin. Instead, the writers focus on the characters known as the Rabbi (Shayne Kennon) and Chopin (Will Taylor), who marry outside their faiths respectively to Mary (Leigh Ann Larkin) and Ruth (Hannah Corneau). Erich (Chris Dwan), the sixth member of the group, harbors dangerous secrets and influential friends, including Albert Einstein and composer Richard Strauss, who make delightful cameos played by Brandon O’Dell.

    After some rousing opening numbers (“Overture,” “Harmony”), Mary’s luminous “And What Do You See?” and a couple of comedic bonbons (“Your Son Is Becoming a Singer!”; “How Can I Serve You, Madame?”), the double wedding scene is a thing of somber joy, for you can feel the menace of Hitler hovering in the shadows. (This is probably a fine time to say that Tobin Ost’s sets and costumes, Jeff Croiter’s lighting and Darrel Maloney’s projections are absolutely gorgeous.)

    While the 19-member cast is uniformly good, some performances deserve singling out. Kennon, in particular, is heartbreaking. Williams is possessed of a one-of-a-kind instrument, and you can hear it every time he opens his mouth to speak or sing. As the female leads, Larkin and Corneau are dazzling.

    In the end, “Harmony” is a nearly flawless work of art that almost manages to cloak the harrowing underside of history in a bubble of elegance, sophistication and wit. At the end of the night, the waltz fades away, but the stars never dim. Can this obscure story find success in the realm of commercial theater? I believe so.

  • Wilfried Rimensberger says:

    Sharing the sourcing producer credit with Garry Kief, I’m so pleased about Harmony’s arrival in NewYork. It’s been a long journey since the 1980’s when a friend of mine, the German TV and concert producer of Rock-Palast convinced me to have a look at an obscure black and white German TV film about the Comedian Harmonists needing serious updating and also to followup on earlier discussions I had with Eberhard Fechner who produced a TV documentary in the 1970s. The idea was to produce a Hollywood movie in English and extend the reach of existing German-language productions. This was also the first time when Barry Manilow’s name was mentioned. By sheer coincidence, in the 1980’s I formed a business partnership with Barry Manilow’s manager Garry Kief. And Barry showed an interest in the music of the Comedian Harmonists too. This triggered securing the necessary documentation, exclusive access to the original material and support from an at the time private archive/museum, work which went on during late 1980 early 1990s. The rest is down to Barry Manilow’s and Bruce Sussman’s songwriting talents. Visits to Berlin, where the museum still remains although in a different space and now being public followed and first songs for a musical appeared. The response to them during Bary’s concert performances was nothing but encouraging. And Barry and his team built a project with several off-Broadway productions selling out. Despite some serious headaches and literally heartaches over the years, Barry’s personal conviction and his team’s persistence and incredible belief in the story’s potential to grip an international audience finally paid off with arrival in NewYork.

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