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Harmony: A New Musical Where The Past Is No Longer Forgotten

Harmony: A New Musical Where The Past Is No Longer Forgotten

Imagine being bigger than The Beatles, The Monkees, The Jackson 5, The Osmonds, the Backstreet Boys, NSYNC or One Direction and being obliterated because of the Nazis. That is what happened to The Comedian Harmonists. Now thanks to Harmony: A New Musical, written by the legendary Barry Manilow and his longtime collaborator Bruce Sussman their story lives again.

Andrew O’Shanick  Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

The Comedian Harmonists were an internationally famous, all-male German close harmony ensemble that performed between 1928 and 1934 as one of the most successful musical groups in all of Europe before World War II. The group consisted of  Harry (Zal Owen), Erich (Eric Peters), Rabbi (Danny Kornfeld), Bobby (Sean Bell), Chopin ( Blake Roman) and Lesh (Steven Telsey),. 3 were Jewish and Chopin had married a Jewish woman, Ruth (Ana Hoffman).

Blake Roman, Steven Telsey, Zal Owen, Danny Kornfeld, Eric Peters, Sean Bell Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

In their day The Comedian Harmonists made 21 films and 13 albums.

Chip Zein Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Rabbi (a remarkable Chip Zein), the group’s only survivor is tasked with telling and remembering the past and bringing back to life what was coldly erased.

Zal Owen, Danny Kornfeld, Steven Telsey, Eric Peters Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

The first act breezes along with Rabbi meeting his wife Mary (Sierra Boggess), The Comedian Harmonists forming and gradually becoming famous, and the coming of Nazism, culminating with a sold out performance at Carnegie Hall. They are offered a contract with NBC but, instead, return to Canada as their loyalty is to their country.

Eric Peters, Blake Roman, Zal Owen, Steven Telsey, Sean Bell, Danny Kornfeld Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

From the moment the show starts and the exquisite harmony begins, you can feel you are in for something special. I normally do not read my playbill until I review, but the direction was so powerful I had to know who directed. Not only does Warren Carlyle choreograph, but his direction is brimming with heart and soul. His choreography for “How Can I Serve You, Madame?” and “Come to the Fatherland” is ingenious. Then the second act begins, which is devastating, sadly predictable if you know history. Have your Kleenex ready.

Danny Kornfeld, Sierra Boggess, Blake Roman, Jessie Davidson Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

The music by Barry Manilow and lyrics by Bruce Sussman is musical theatre nirvana. The orchestration by Doug Walter and vocal arrangements by Manilow and John O’Neil is sublime, complex and satisfying. This is like the scores that seem forgotten, that made me fall in love with musicals. I can see “This Is Our Time,” “Every Single Day,” and “Stars In The Night” being sung for years. Don’t go expecting typical Barry Manilow’s hits —  this is something much

Danny Kornfeld and Sierra Boggess Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Then there is the cast. Ms. Boggess floats the soprano notes in “And What Do You See?” and “Where Do You Go” like a nightingale. Ms. Hoffman is a find, with her acting chops and superb belt. Each of the members of the The Comedian Harmonists is given a chance to shine. Roman is winsome as the matinee idol and Peters is a standout as the nobleman hiding his past. Telsey, Owen and Bell, each have their own winning moments as well. Kornfeld, since he is the younger version of Rabbi gets more than the rest and handles it superbly. Also Ana Hoffman as Josephine Baker does a knock out job in “We’re Goin’ Loco!” but it is Chip Zein that should be seeing some award love, for the multiple roles he embodies. His song “Threnody” is a tour de force, it’s a little long. And his turn as Marlene Dietrich shows this man has some legs!

Zal Owen, Eric Peters, Sean Bell, Steven Telsey, Danny Kornfeld Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Beowulf Boritt’s scenic design, Linda Cho & Ricky Lurie’s costumes, Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer’s lighting, Dan Moses Schreier’s sound design and batwin + robin productions inc., video are done to perfection. Bravo!

Jessie Davidson Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

In a season that seems overbooked, I would gladly see Harmony again and again. My guess is it will be coming to Broadway soon.

Blake Roman, Steven Telsey, Eric Peters, Zal Owen, Sean Bell Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Chip Zien, Ana Hoffman, Sierra Boggess, Danny Kornfeld Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Blake Roman, Eric Peters, Zal Owen, Sean Bell, Steven Telsey, Danny Kornfeld Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Sean Bell, Barrett Riggins, Eric Peters, Danny Kornfeld, Ana Hoffman, Matthew Mucha, Steven Telsey, Shayne Kennon, Blake Roman, Zal Owen Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Steven Telsey, Sean Bell, Blake Edwards, Danny Kornfeld, Zal Owen Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Sierra Boggess and Danny Kornfeld Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Zak Edwards, Chip Zein Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

Harmony: A New Musical: National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, 36 Battery Pl until May 15th.

 

Music

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

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