Atlanta Art Reviews by Susan K Asher
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Barry Manilow’s “Harmony” at the Alliance Theatre

2013 September 27
Douglas Williams, Tony Yazbeck, Will Taylor, Chris Dwan, Will Blum, and Shayne Kennon

Douglas Williams, Tony Yazbeck, Will Taylor, Chris Dwan, Will Blum, and Shayne Kennon photo: Greg Mooney

Barry Manilow may be one of the most successful songwriters in the past 40 years, but I don’t think his new musical, “Harmony,” now playing at the Alliance Theatre, is going to be one of his hits. The book, written by his writing partner Bruce Sussman, who has helped him create hits such as “Copacabana,” “I Made it Through the Rain,” and “Hey Mambo,” is lacking in depth, comedy and originality.

“Harmony” is based on the Comedian Harmonist, an all-male sextet in Germany that performed from 1927-1938 throughout Europe and in New York. The group included a couple of Jewish members, so you know where this story is headed.

But it’s not all tragedy as there’s a splatter of comedy.  At a lunch concert when the group has not yet received its pants, the harmonists perform behind a serving table while tossing around weiner-like long loaves of bread and sausages. It’s quite cute, as is the scene in which the group performs as marionettes, in a mock of Hitler that is reminiscent of Mel Brooks’s “Springtime for Hitler.”

The first act of “Harmony” is slow to build as very little is at stake. When the stakes rise in the second act as Hitler rises in power, and more and more problems are thrown at the members, the story becomes lively and puts the fear of life in you. Still, the play doesn’t make this story about Nazi Germany much different than the others out there. We get to know the surface of the characters, but that special something that tugs at the heart is missing.

For those of us who aren’t familiar with the documentary the book was based on, this particular story is unique and interesting. But an interesting story alone is not enough to make good theater. The book just scratches the surface of these characters. It pricks at our heart when it needs to be pierced.

“Harmony” is likely bound for Broadway. If the book stays the same between now and then, I don’t think it will be bound there long.

Music by Barry Manilow, book by Bruce Sussman, directed by Tony Speciale, “Harmony” runs through Oct. 6 at the Alliance Theatre.

Will Blum . . . . . . . . . .  Ari “Lesh” Leshnikoff
Liberty Cogen . . . Ensemble/Woman on a Train
Hannah Corneau . . . . . . . . . . . .  Ruth Stern
Chris Dwan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Erich Collin
Bryan Thomas Hunt . . . . . . . . . . . Ensemble/
Club Cinderella Announcer
Greg Kamp . . . . . . . . .   Ensemble/Sturmann
Shayne Kennon . “Rabbi” Josef Roman Cykowski
Leigh Ann Larkin . . . . . . . . . . . . Mary Hegel
Chad Lindsey . . . Ensemble/Standartenfuhrer/
Carnegie Hall Announcer
Lindsay Moore . . . Ensemble/Woman on a Train
Brandon O’Dell . . . Ensemble/Richard Strauss/
Albert Einstein/Frankenhauser
Patrick O’Neill . . . . . . Ensemble/Border Guard
Charles Osborne . .   Ensemble/Obersturmfuhrer
Kim Sava . . . . . . Ensemble/Woman on a Train
Dave Schoonover . . . . . Ensemble/Ezra Kaplan
Lauren Elaine Taylor . Ensemble/Marlene Dietrich
Will Taylor . . . . . . . . . Erwin “Chopin” Bootz
Douglas Williams . . . . . . . . . . Bobby Biberti
Tony Yazbeck . . . . . . . . . Harry Frommerman

 

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