Barry Manilow has Composed his First Musical with ‘Harmony,’ Opening on Broadway in 2 Weeks

Multi-award winner and Las Vegas legend Barry Manilow still thinks of himself as “the guy behind the piano,” according to a recent interview with CBS Sunday Morning, but he’s so much more than that to his dedicated fans and music history as well. Now, he’s adding a new feather in his cap and going back to what started it all for him: musical theater.

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Manilow has embarked on a new project with long-time collaborator Bruce Sussman (though it has been in development over the past 30 years). The Broadway musical, Harmony, tells the true story of the Comedian Harmonists, a group of six German men who found immense fame in the 1920s. Sussman wrote the story and the lyrics for Harmony, while Manilow composed the music, which shows off his range as a composer and arranger.

“[Pop music] just didn’t challenge me enough,” Manilow told Sunday Morning. Musical theater is what kickstarted his career from a job as the musical director for a young Bette Midler in the early 70s to musical arranger for various off-Broadway productions. Although in 1964 Manilow wrote an entire original score for the off-Broadway production of The Drunkard, Harmony is the first musical that he has composed on his own for a Broadway debut.

[RELATED: Barry Manilow’s Last U.K. Shows: Dates, Tickets, and More]

The Comedian Harmonists consisted of three Jewish men and three Gentiles performing together to international acclaim before World War II. “In their day they were the Beatles,” said Sussman of the group. “They sold millions of records, they made 13 movies, and then, in 1933, Hitler comes to power. It became illegal to sell their records or play them.”

Sussman continued, “They were the poster children for what Germany could have been, the harmony in the broadest sense of the word, that Jews and Gentiles could work together and create something so beautiful. That was not part of the Third Reich’s agenda, so they were just wiped out.”

Harmony is opening on November 13 on Broadway. Performances began on October 18, but the official opening night is not for two more weeks.

The story of Harmony is crucial for remembering the impact that the Comedian Harmonists had on history and culture. Their impact on music may not be felt as strongly as others, but that’s because they were silenced and forgotten in their time. Now, their memory is returning through music and dance, and, as actress Sierra Boggess—who plays Mary in the show—said in the official announcement video, “If we don’t tell their story, they’re not going to live on.”

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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