I don’t think I knew, going in, that Harmony, the new musical from book/lyric writer, Bruce Sussman (Ted Tally’s Coming Attractions) and music writer Barry Manilow now on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, is based on a true story. But as it sings itself out to us, it starts by taking us back to the Carnegie Hall stage of 1933, but then shifts even further back to Berlin, Germany 1927, giving us a clearer picture of what might be coming at us. Panning out in tones not so subtle and utilizing the narrative structure of a standard memory play, a narrator, played by the endearing Chip Zien (Broadway’s original Baker in Sondheim/Lapine’s Into the Woods), stands forward, center stage, ushering us into the past and this story. His name, he tells us, is Rabbi, and he once was, back in the day, a member of a comedic singing group in Berlin made up of six young men who could harmonize and craft a joke like few others could. The group, ‘The Comedian Harmonists‘, was an internationally famous, all-male German close harmony ensemble that performed between 1928 and 1934. As one of the most successful musical groups in Europe before World War II, they steadfastly rose to fame and fortune as the Nazis came to power in Germany, and within that historic framework, the dye has been cast and the stage set.
Zien is most definitely an affable figure, one guaranteed to take us through this complicated and emotional story with expert ease, and we feel safe in his testimony. The elder Rabbi pulls us in, ushering us back to the first days of the group, and joining in with the fun whenever he can. It’s a tender beginning, and as directed and choreographed with energy by Warren Carlyle (Broadway’s After Midnight), we are forever cognizant of where this all will be heading. Zien quickly lets us into the framework, informing us that he is the only surviving member of this long-forgotten troop of singers, and he’s here to tell us their story so they won’t be forgotten. Noting the historical landscape, we can’t help but know where we are being delivered to, and it’s not all that shocking where we will end up.
With a group name that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, they come together with a joyful clarity, delivering the cool notes of a well-cast harmonic group. The crew of six, including a very good Matthew Mucha (CFRT’s Memphis)-an understudy for the absent Danny Kornfeld (Barrington’s Fiddler on the Roof) who usually plays the parallel part of Rabbi, younger and sweetly entwined with the other five; Sean Bell (HBO’s “Succession”) as Bobby; Zal Owen (Broadway’s The Band’s Visit) as Harry; Eric Peters (National tour: Motown the Musical) as Erich; Blake Roman (Paramount+’s “Blue Bloods”) as Chopin; and Steven Telsey (National tour: The Book of Mormon) as Lesh; come together neatly. They all fit into nicely categorized stereotypes that sing, make scene jokes, and travel the world entertaining their audiences with an ever-increasing amount of success, all under the watchful, but pseudo-approving eyes of the Nazis.
The six singers, all delicious and delightful to watch, deliver the goods solidly, even with songs that aren’t exactly memorable. But they sure look and sound good (and sometimes even great). No wonder they are seen as good public relations personas to the world, especially with their diversity, but as an audience member who knows what’s coming, it doesn’t sit so easily in the pit of our stomachs. The Nazis, as embodied by Andrew O’Shanick (“Pitch Perfect“) as Standartenführer – who claims to be a fan – don’t even seem to mind that a number of the group members, but not all, are in fact Jewish. This comes as a surprise, as most Jews and their equivalents were being robbed of their livelihood, their money, and their passports. But not these boys. Even when they push the boundaries of their PR protections outside of Germany, nothing happens, at least not right away.
The drama of the musical’s story is played out with conviction on a straightforward uncomplicated set by scenic designer Beowulf Boritt (Broadway’s New York, New York), with formula costuming by Linda Cho (Broadway’s Take Me Out) and Ricky Lurie (Gallery Players’ Godspell), inventive lighting by Jules Fisher + Peggy Eisenhauer (Broadway’s Gary), and a solid sound design by Dan Moses Schreier (Roundabout’s Trouble In Mind). It charges forward, but oddly, doesn’t hold us emotionally tight in its arms, running too long, and feeling soft-focused and sometimes generic in tone and form.
The Glorious Corner
MORE MURDER — (Via Deadline) Sophie Ellis-Bextor is gearing up to tour around North America for the first time and adding more cities for fans to see her perform “Murder on the Dance Floor” live.
The British singer’s song is featured in the final scene of Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn, where Barry Keoghan’s Oliver dances naked around the manor. After the scene went viral, the song, co-written by Ellis-Bextor and Gregg Alexander, also went viral on social media. “Murder on the Dance Floor” was originally released in 2001, but it never charted on the Billboard Hot 100 until now, peaking at 51 recently.
Ellis-Bextor recently made an appearance on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon where she performed the viral hit and the star is now embarking on a North America tour.
The artist announced her first-ever live show in NYC, set to take place on June 6 at Webster Hall, and the date quickly sold out. Ellis-Bextor has now announced more dates across the U.S. and Canada that will take her to San Francisco, San Diego, Boston, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia.
“Oh my… the New York show sold out in a day! Thank you thank you thank you,” Ellis-Bextor said in her newsletter announcing the additional tour dates. “So – how about some more shows in some more cities?! My band and I are coming for you! Super excited. Come and dance with me….”
May 30: August Hall (San Francisco, CA)May 31: The Observatory North Park (San Diego, CA) June 3: 9:30 Club (Washington D.C.) June 4: Royale Boston (Boston, MA) June 5: Union Transfer (Philadelphia, PA) June 6: Webster Hall (New York City, NY) June 8: Danforth Music Hall (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
I love this record, because its an actual song. Sure, they repeat the title about three-dozen times, but its a great track.
NOISE CLOSES — (Via Deadline) Broadway’s A Beautiful Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical will play its final performance on Sunday, June 30, before launching a national tour this fall, producers announced today.
The musical, which began previews on November 2, 2022, at the Broadhurst Theatre and opened that year on December 4, will have played 35 preview performances and 657 regular performances when it closes.
As I’ve said, early reviews of the show, kind of stopped me from going to this. An artist who is even referenced in the play said to me ‘why would I go to a play that got bad reviews.’ Understood.
But, I did see it and absolutely loved it. Of course, I’m somewhat on the business side and loved all the insider-nuances. And, I saw it with the original performers in it.
There will be a national tour and I predict it will be a huge hit as Diamond’s music is multi-generational. As I’ve said, I preferred Diamond’s “Solitary Man”-period more than “America” and “I Am, I Said.” Although, “Turn On Your Heart Light” (written with Carole Bayer Sager and Burt Bacharach) was a great record.
An icon for certain.
SHORT TAKES — Warner’s second Aquaman movie; Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom will stream on MAX on February 27. The first Aquaman movie, out in 2018, remains the highest-grossing DC film of all time. The sequel, after a plethora of media, mostly about Amber Heard, disappeared in a matter of weeks … Broadway-journeyman and Rockers On Broadway-creator Donnie Kehr recupping. Get well soon brother! … Keith Girard’s New York Independent featured an interview with 17-old wunderkind Kjersti Long. Check it out: https://www.thenyindependent.com/music/1704991/kjersti-long-17-explores-her-jersey-roots-by-way-of-utah-with-power-pop-style-video/ …
Just listened to the Pet Shop Boys “West End Girls.” What a tremendous record that hold up amazingly well all these years later. It came out in 1984 and produced by Bobby Orlando … Amazon shuttering Freevee? First off, as an offshoot of Amazon, this has got to be one of the worst monikers ever! I mean, FreeVee ... always sounded like frisbee! Adios … Thursday’s Law & Order was the ode to Sam Waterston’s Jack McCoy-character (Last Dance).
After 404 episodes, we had to say goodbye. It wasn’t the greatest episode, but when McCoy took over the case and presented it to the jury, Waterston shone brightly. When McCoy said to Hugh Dancy (Nolan Ryan), it was a hell of a ride, it resonated terrifically. Thanks Jack! …
I loved the finale on HBO of True Detective with Jodie Foster and Kali Reis. I didn’t understand it all, but the look and direction (by Issa Lopez) and Jodie Foster was just superb. I had forgotten just how good an actress Foster was. Sure, she was good in Nyad, but it was a supporting role. Here, she was just stellar. I’d like to see more of her …
It was a grim week medically speaking as talk-show hostess Wendy Williams was diagnosed with aphasia and dementia and Mick Jones of Foreigner, with Parkinson’s. Sending prayers to both … And finally, news surfaced Thursday that an “inebriated” Andy Cohen harassed Brandi Glanville. I don’t know Andy at all, but his bad-boy antics of the last several years were clearly leading to something like this. Glanville’s lawyers even invoked NBC’s Matt Lauer in their brief. Expect a huge media brouhaha over this one. Sad for sure … Happy Bday Lou Christie; Niki Avers and Chloe Gaier.
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Steve Walter; Obi Steinman; Felix Cavaliere; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Kent Kotal; Ace Frehley; Alex Saltzman; Lush Ice; Tony King; Barry Zelman; Justin Ridener; Kent & Laura Denmark; Mark Bego; Mark Scheerer; Barbara Shelley; and SADIE!
Stephen Schwartz To Be Inducted into The Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame
Legendary Award Winning Broadway and Movie Music Composer Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell, Pippin) will be inducted into the Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame (LIMEHOF) on Saturday, March 23rd, 2024 at 7pm.
There will also be concert emceed by Musician Paul Shaffer (from the David Letterman Show) who worked with Schwartz early in his career.
Schwartz has won 4 Grammys and 3 Oscars among other awards in his career that spans over 50 years both on Broadway and on the silver screen. Additionally, Schwartz has contributed music and lyrics to several movies such as “Pocahontas” (1995), “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1996), “The Prince of Egypt” (1998), and “Enchanted” (2007).He was also involved with the upcoming feature film adaptation of Wicked to be released in the fall.
Ani DiFranco and Lola Tung Join Hadestown
The Tony and Grammy Award®-winning Best Musical Hadestown is currently stars Grammy Award winner Ani DiFranco as Persephone singing “Our Lady Of The Underground”.
Lola Tung (“The Summer I Turned Pretty”) as Eurydice, Jordan Fisher (Dear Evan Hansen, Grease: Live,) as Orpheus here singing “All I’ve Ever Known”.
Grammy Award nominee Phillip Boykin as Hades, and Tony Award winner Lillias White as Hermes.
They are joined by Belén Moyano, Kay Trinidad, and Brit West as the Fates. The chorus of Workers is played by Emily Afton, Malcolm Armwood, Chibueze Ihuoma, Alex Puette, and Grace Yoo. The cast includes swings Sojourner Brown, Brandon Cameron, Tara Jackson, Max Kumangai, Alex Lugo, and Tanner Ray Wilson.
Hadestown originated as Anaïs Mitchell’s indie theater project that toured Vermont which she then turned into an acclaimed album. With Rachel Chavkin, her artistic collaborator, Hadestown has been transformed into a genre-defying new musical that blends modern American folk music with New Orleans-inspired jazz to reimagine a sweeping ancient tale.
Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Goes Live With Bonnie Comley and Stewart F. Lane
Photo of Bonnie Comley, Stewart F. Lane and Suzanna Bowling
“Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents ”, is a new show that is filmed live every Wednesday from 5 – 6 in the lobby of the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience. We will run the video on our site every Thursday and then it moves onto the podcast networks.
In this episode T2C’s publisher and owner Suzanna Bowling talks with Broadway royalty and longtime married couple Bonnie Comley and Stewart F. Lane. We talk about the Palace Theatre, Broadway HD and so much more.
We were also so excited because the show and our guests are now featured on the TV screens in the lobby and the hotel rooms.
I am so grateful to my guests Bonnie and Stewart for joining me. Thank-you Magda Katz for videoing and creating the content to go live, the audience who showed up to support us, Rommel Gopez and The Hotel Edison for their kindness and hospitality.
We hope to see you there on February 21st for our guests the creator of Times Square and Hampton Fashion Week Dee Rivera, Celebrity hairstylist Samantha Smoker and Fashion Designer Shani Grosz.
Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley
I am so pleased to announce our guests for Valentine’s Day are Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley, the founders of BroadwayHD.com, an online streaming service on a mission to promote and preserve live theatre, extending the reach of Broadway and Broadway-caliber shows to anyone, anywhere. BroadwayHD currently has a catalog of over 300 full-length stage plays and musicals available for streaming on demand, so when you can’t get to Broadway, go to BroadwayHD on your tv, phone, or tablet!
Mr. Lane and Ms. Comley have collectively produced over 40 films and 45 Broadway shows, garnering nine Tony Awards and another 14 Tony nominations. They have also won Olivier Awards, Drama Desk, Drama
League, and Outer Critics Circle Awards for their stage productions. Lane has co-owned Broadway’s famous Palace Theater for almost 40 years.
The theater community has honored the couple for their philanthropic work, including The Actors Fund Medal of Honor, The Drama League Special Contribution to the Theater Award, The Paul Newman Award from Arts Horizons, and The Theater Museum Distinguished Service Award. The stage at Boston University’s new theater center is named in their honor, as is the Music Theater Program. The Musical Theater Society Room bears their name at Emerson College, and the 500-seat theater at the University
of Massachusetts Lowell is known as the Comley Lane Theater. Lane is a recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award at Boston University, and Comley is Distinguished Alumni of both Emerson College and UMass Lowell.
Mr. Lane is a theater historian and playwright and has written the critically acclaimed “Black Broadway: African Americans on the Great White Way” (Square One Publishers), “Jews on Broadway” (McFarland Publishers), “Let’s Put on a Show” (Working Arts Library), and the plays “In The Wings (published in spring 2008 by Hal Leonard), “If It Was Easy” (published by Performing Books and nominated for Best New Play by the American Theatre Critics Association), and the musical “Back Home Again” (with music
and lyrics by John Denver) which he was awarded The 2011 John Denver Spirit Award for his work.
“Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents ”, is a new show that will be filmed live every Wednesday from 5 – 6 in the lobby of the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience. To see our first episode click here.
Originally our guest was Maury Yeston, but he had to reschedule. He will be our guest at a later date, however Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley, our guests for Valentine’s Day could not be more perfect. They are the epitome or Love and Broadway.
See you at The Hotel Edison.
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