I first wrote about the musical Harmony by Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman here back in February. The short version is that I saw it in its San Diego premiere 16 years ago at the La Jolla Playhouse and thought it was terrific. Wonderful in the first act, but some work needed in the second. But overall, the show was extremely, with a rich score that wasn't like a collection of Barry Manilow hits, but that fit the show and its era. I've just been a sort of lone voice in trying to get that across.
At the time, I had no expectation that the show had a future, after all those passing years. I just had always remembered it -- and remembered it with great fondness -- and wanted to write about a show that deserved to be remembered.
Well, after those 16 years, the show finally -- and remarkably -- has gotten its second chance, this time at the Tony-winning for regional theater, the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. After working on the show on and off, Harmony opened on September 15.
I figured that the tale deserved an update.
I finally was able to track down the full review in the Atlanta Journal Constitution (the review is premiere content and therefore blocked) -- and it's quite the rave, with Wendell Brock calling it, among other praise, "A nearly flawless work of art." Here are excerpts -
Manilow's 'Harmony' is a glorious work of art
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.
...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.
Photo credit: Greg Mooney
There's one other review I've been able to find, from Atlanta Magazine. It's more of a feature piece about the opening, but within it, Richard L Eldredge writes:
The show's music remains stylistically true to the play's period and free from any 1970s-era excess reminiscent of Tryin' to Get the Feeling Again, with plenty of vocal gymnastics hard-wired into the score for the show's leads Shayne Kennon, Douglas Williams, Will Taylor, Tony Yazbeck, Will Blum and Chris Dwan to have fun with. The score has much more in common with Manilow's pair of obscure jazz-oriented albums, Two AM Paradise Café and Swing Street than his steady stream of AM radio hits from 40 years ago.
Photo credit: Greg Mooney
For many years, I faced a lot of skeptics thinking that I must be out of my mind saying how good Harmony was, and sorry I was that it hadn't gone further, because the second act issues were small and very fixable. So, at least at this juncture, I'm so pleased for all the creators of the show that they've brought it back to life and are having quite a wonderful success with it.
You read it it here first. Almost literally...
It opens in Los Angeles in March.
Here's a video montage of the production, underscored with the title song.
To read more from Robert J. Elisberg about this or many other matters both large and tidbit small, see Elisberg Industries.