Barry Manilow fans never got to hear the end of his set at Saturday’s “We Love NYC” Central Park concert, after the all-star show got shut down right in the middle of a Manilow medley. But there’ll finally be an ending to the saga of his stage musical “Harmony” coming to New York City, as the show has been set for a seven-week run in the spring of 2022 — 25 years after it first premiered in California.
“Harmony” will be presented by the National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene (NYTF) in the Edmond J. Safra Hall Theatre at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. Previews start March 23 of next year, with regular performances beginning April 13 and running through May 8. Tony winner Warren Carlyle will direct.
Conceived by Manilow with book and lyrics writer Bruce Sussman, “Harmony” has taken a long road to get there — and not just because this particular NYTF production has been delayed a couple of times, first from its planned 2019 bow to 2020, followed by the pandemic necessitating a second postponement.
The show premiered at the La Jolla Playhouse near San Diego, the incubator for many Broadway productions over the years, in 1997. A planned production in Philadelphia in 2003 that was supposed to lead to Broadway, with Brian d’Arcy James leading the cast, got shut down during rehearsals when the producers ran millions of dollars short of capitalizing the show. Ten years later, “Harmony” got new life in a production at the Alliance Theater Company in Atlanta, but a New York follow-up slipped out of its grasp then, too.
Although this version of “Harmony” is not set for Broadway, it lands with a prestigious company. Before the pandemic, the NYTF’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish” won a Drama Desk award in 2019, along with a a Lucille Lortel Award and several other honors. The company is no new kid on the block — it’s now in its 107th season.
Producers are quick to note that, despite the theater company’s name and the title of that previous award-winning production, “Harmony” will be very much in English.
The show is based on a true story, that of the Comedian Harmonists, a group of six young men in 1920s Germany who “took the world by storm” — as the show description says — with their music and comedy, until the inclusion of Jewish singers in the act put them in the path of a much bigger storm brewing.
This production’s director is also its choreographer. Carlyle won the Tony in 2014 for his choreography for “After Midnight,” a show that also got him a Tony nomination for best director. He was again Tony-nominated in 2019 for his choreography on the “Kiss Me Kate” revival. He directed and choreographed “Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway,” and his association with Jackman continued with directing the actor-singer on a 2019 world tour as well as choreographing the star in an upcoming Broadway revival of “The Music Man.”
Said NYTF artistic director Zalmen Mlotek, “The core of NYTF’s mission will always be the promotion of the great literary, dramatic and musical traditions of the Yiddish theater. We will venture beyond Yiddish when presented with opportunities to tell important Jewish stories, in other languages, particularly when these stories otherwise would not be told. The storied career of the Comedian Harmonists, one of the most popular performers in pre-war Europe, represents how antisemitism can infect even the most ‘civilized’ of societies. The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene is proud to bring their story to a wider public.”
Manilow has not been entirely absent on Broadway during the year spent trying to get “Harmony” there. His revue “Manilow Broadway” played at the Lunt-Fontanne in the second half 2019 and represented the fifth trip to Broadway for a show based around his music.