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.
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).
In their day The Comedian Harmonists made 21 films and 13 albums.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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!
In a season that seems overbooked, I would gladly see Harmony again and again. My guess is it will be coming to Broadway soon.
Harmony: A New Musical: National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, 36 Battery Pl until May 15th.
The Glorious Corner
TRUMAN’S SWANS — I only know Ryan Murphy by reputation. He’s been the flavor-of-Hollywood for quite some time now; yet a devil-may-care attitude persists in his CV. I loved his Nip/Tuck which just defied expectations on every level; terrific acting from Dylan Walsh and Julian McMahon, and just the wildest plots I’ve ever seen.
From there Hollywood started throwing money at him left and right; American Horror Story and Hollywood (with Jim Parsons) followed. Also, the anthology series-Feud which began with the “feud” between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis and was succinctly thrilling.
Now, Feud is chronicling Truman Capote and his “feud” with his Swans; featuring mainly a terrific performance by Noami Watts as Babe Paley. Calista Flockhart; a devilish-Diane Lane and Chloe Sevigny are also there as the other swans. Director Gus Van Sant (Drugstore Cowboy) directed several episodes and it is, without a doubt, the best thing Murphy has done and I’ve seen in quote some time.
One episode is entirely shot in black-and-white, a risky-gamble for anyone … but, it pays off handsomely.
Tom Hollander as Capote is simply off the charts and is, I believe, one of the best performances I’ve ever seen.As a young writer, there were two writers I was absolutely captivated with: Dominick Dunne and Capote. Dunne I met and he was everything I hoped him to be, Capote, never. The Swans is a long, long story and I urge you to look further into it. Capote, truly self-destructive, became an appendage of them all and they all told him everything, some of which he wrote about is Esquire (La Cote Basqu”-1965) exposing their innermost secrets and thereby severing the relationship.
Just a brilliant, brilliant series, Murphy’s crowning touch.
SHORT TAKES — In my final few weeks working from home, I finally dialed up ROKU’s Yacht Rock station after initially being somewhat repelled by the term. Turns out, it really means soft rock and I’ve heard everything from Hall & Oates to the Sanford Townsend Band (big favorite) and lots of Steve Winwood; Eagles; Al Stewart; and Chicago.
Not bad actually. Guess I really am old … Micky Dolenz does an interview with NPR’s Lillian Galvez today and BreakfastWith The Beatles’ Chris Carter on March 31 before his show at LA’s Troubadour on April 5 … The Rascals people Got To Be Free tour at the Patchogue Theater on April 26; Keswick Theater on April 27; and SONY Hall in NYC on May 17 …
James Gunn’s Superman: Legacy movie has been re-named Superman; and has cast Wendell Pierce (The Wire; Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan) as Perry White. And remember, Rachel Brosnahan is Lois Lane! … Keith Richards singing Lou Reed’s immortal classic “I’m Waiting For The Man” is so excellent. Take a look: https://variety.com/2024/music/news/keith-richards-covers-waiting-for-the-man-lou-reed-tribute-1235927738/
The track appears on a Lou Reed tribute album that also features Angel Olsen, Lucinda Williams, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Rufus Wainwright, Rickie Lee Jones, Rosanne Cash and others. It arrives April 19 — with a special Record Store Day edition arriving the following day — on Seattle’s indie Light in the Attic Records (which was chosen by the late artist’s estate to handle his reissues and got a Grammy nomination for the “Words & Music: May, 1965” album). Booklet features liner notes by compilation producer & former Lou Reed publicist Bill Bentley, featuring photos by Mick Rock and Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. Said Richards: “To me, Lou stood out. The real deal! Something important to American music and to ALL MUSIC! I miss him and his dog” …
SIGHTING: Micky Dolenz and Alison Martino at the Catalina Jazz Club watching Jimmy Webb … And, we watched the awesome Jeffrey Wright in American Fiction and loved it until the end. It’s almost as if writer/director Cord Jefferson couldn’t figure the right ending, so he portrayed three. Pretty weird for sure, but a staggeringly excellent performance by Wright, Erika Anderson and Sterling K. Brown.
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Nancy Jeffries; George Michael; Helene Blue; Monica Lynch; Thomas Silverman; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Alexa Blake; Joe Bonadonna; Andrew Sandoval; Race Taylor; Scott Shannon; Dan Ingram; Bruce Morrow; Wolfman Jack; William Schill; Ed Steinberg; Chris Carter; and CHIP!
Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Classical/Rock Violinist Daisy Jopling
“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. To see our first episode click here second episode click here and for our third episode click here.
You can also see us on
A Sign of the Times Off-Broadway Dreams of the Dawn of a New Day
It’s the dawn of a new day, says A Sign of the Times, the latest jukebox musical that opens itself up to a sweet nostalgia of American postwar at the New World Stages off-Broadway. It’s overflowing with well-known songs from the 1960s, beautifully performed and glowing, with melodies made popular and iconic by Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, and Lesley Gore. With such a strong playlist at its core, the new musical, created by producer Richard J. Robin (Memphis) with a somewhat contrived book by Lindsey Hope Pearlman (MacGyver the Musical), tries valiantly to stitch together the tale of a young woman, Cindy, played with wide-eyed determination by Chilina Kennedy (Broadway’s Paradise Square) who is trying with all her might to find a different way of living outside the heteronormative Ohio small town community she rings in the new year with. It’s a well-formulated beginning, possibly because of the fine crew surrounding her, especially her two gal pals, portrayed wonderfully by the very talented and funny Alyssa Carol (Broadway’s Bad Cinderella) and Maggie McDowell (Broadway’s Kinky Boots) giving it their all. The two are conflicted, wanting her both to stay and marry her handsome, epic raspy-voiced boyfriend, Matt, played deliciously croon-worthy by Justin Matthew Sargent (Broadway’s Spider-Man…) giving off a dreamy Luke Perry/Dylan vibe in abundance, but they also would love for her to get out of Ohio and follow her photographic dreams in the big city of New York. Like any good friend would.
But the well-strummed “I Only Want to Be with You” proposal, delivered smoothly by Sargent’s Matt, is not enough to hold down the “Who Am I?” questioning for Cindy, and off she goes on an awkwardly tight bus ride to the Big Apple in hope that “Round Every Corner” there might be some morsel of career success. It’s an empowering first chapter to Cindy’s adventure, even with the all too true and too funny apartment hunting shenanigans. Packed in with it all also comes about every culturally significant political movement that existed in those formative years, passively aggressively shoved into this tale of a time and a place in our cultural history. None of which have gone away. It’s a grand attempt, overflowing with issues and meaning, as this musical tries its best to give us another shiny and splashy Hairspray. That comparison, I know is an ‘apples to oranges jukebox’ one, but that show, back in its day, magically and deftly found its way to encapsulate segregation and racism in 1962 Baltimore with originality and musical gold, but unfortunately, with this show’s heavy-handed book, A Sign of the Times doesn’t hold its shape as strongly as that aerosol can of Ultra Clutch was made to do for those dos. Even with all of these stellar songs and performances brought to life at New World Stages.
But the cast of pros can not be held back by this book, as each and everyone delivers those iconic songs with charm, vitality, and style on a slick stage design by Evan Adamson (Le Petit Theatre’s A Christmas Carol) with expert lighting design by Ken Billington (Broadway’s New York, New York), determined and fun costuming by Johanna Pan (Barrington’s James and the Giant Peach), and a solid sound design by Shannon Slaton (Broadway’s Melissa Etheridge: My Window). Their voices ring out infectiously strong, leading us through the chance encounters and “Count Me In” moments that basically “Rescue Me” and everyone around them, particularly Crystal Lucas-Perry (Broadway’s Ain’t No Mo’) as the aspiring singer/quick-change artist Tanya, who even though she was under-mic’d in the first act, still managed to captivate, even when given dialogue that was as corny as Corny Collins. “Something [does] Got a Hold on Me” when she starts to sing, so “why am I dreaming about something else?“.
There is also the political activist/protestor and Tanya’s handsome man, Cody, played solidly by the well-voiced Akron Lanier Watson (Broadway’s The Color Purple revival) who tries to engage us and her with the cause. On the other end of that police baton, there is a slimy advertising executive Brian, played true to form by Ryan Silverman (Broadway’s Side Show), who uses his power and privilege to woo the determined Cindy. Yet, even with all those red flags flying, she continues to hold on to her dream of being a photographer, even as we watch her fall for this creepy businessman who charms her into not seeing the ugly blending of professional and personal that is rampant in their workplace and in his demeanor. It’s a stretch of the “Gimme Some Lovin’” imagination to believe Cindy, let alone the more worldly Tanya, can not see clearly through his harassment schtick from that first walk home, but I guess we can relax through this two-and-a-half-hour show knowing that it has to come eventually in this “Five O’clock World” gone wild.
Not even when the old Ohio boyfriend, Matt, whom we are all starting to warm up to a bit more with each Brian/Cindy “Call Me” moment, calls himself asking her to take the “Last Train to Clarksville” before he heads off to Vietnam after getting drafted, does Cindy falter in her dream of photography career success. But it’s hard to quibble about too many hot topics for one show when the cast is having so much fun kicking up their heels to the strong choreography of JoAnn M. Hunter (Mirvish’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) and her “The Shoop Shoop Song” energy. The playfulness shines when used in the right moments, exemplified in the “The ‘In’ Crowd” party, hosted by the wildly fun, pop artist, cheekily named Randy Forthwall, played joyfully by Edward Staudenmayer (Broadway’s Girl from the North Country) who also adds that same flair to a dozen other minor roles. It is exactly the formula this show needs a whole lot more of and is the bus ride that could bring it success.
Director Gabriel Barre (Broadway’s Amazing Grace) does his best to keep the engine running, but sometimes he stalls it with a few heavy-handed approaches to some bigger issue moments, like Tanya’s “Society’s Child“. It’s touching but somehow too light and in need of a stronger punch, but I also have a feeling that Lucas-Perry could have handled that one all on her own without the dramatization playing out awkwardly over to the side. Yet, once again, the music is what delivers the energy and charm of this piece “Downtown” for our pleasure under the direction of music director Britt Bonney (Broadway’s Camelot) with music supervision, arrangements, and orchestrations by Joseph Church (Broadway’s The Lion King). But as with many jukebox musicals, the songs are the gold here, even when the lyrics only fit marginally into the storyline. The belting and the wildly colorful embodiment of the period are exactly what the piece needs to take it to the finishing line. Not the clumsy overwrought storyline and dialogue, checking as many boxes as one could hope for, that stops it in its soundtracks.
Trying hard to be a whole lot of things to a whole lot of people, Off-Broadway’s A Sign of the Times does find its way to be filled up with a ton of 1960s musical delights, performed wonderfully, all lined up in a row. Unfortunately, it is also a show with a storyline spit out by a computer program to cover all the issues of the time and place (and beyond, maybe “ten years ahead of wherever“) shoved in between and inside the cracks awkwardly. It never really finds its way into the well-balanced heights of its counterpart Hairspray, but it does entertain you well when it embraces the music it wants to share with us. Brad Peterson’s projection design (Off-Broadway’s Broadway Bounty Hunter) tries his best to add dimension and the weight of the decade with his projected photographs of activists and social movement moments, but the energy of the music presented here is really what drives this musical to its destination.
For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com
An A-Mayes-ment in black and white
Imagine the surprise, when expecting the sweet and bouncy lady you’ve known from the Broadway stage—you know, the one who is part Dorothy Loudon/part Anita Gillette—takes the stage and delivers a program that reveals her to be a jazz baby as well. The lady in question is of course Sally Mayes in Now and Then/Jazz Standard Time.
Yep, Sally’s back, bedecked in a black-and-white outfit with just enough subtle sparkle to be seductive. As sassy as ever, with a glint in her eye like the female Harold Hill, she presented a selection of songs that were rousing, heart-rending, funny, and overall fabulous. Fueled by talent we all know and love and coupled with an energy and verve that were enviable, she was entrancing. This was a new Sally and one I was very pleased to meet. With Tedd Firth as Musical Director and Tom Hubbard supporting on bass, a sensational evening was virtually guaranteed.
Sally began with “Cloudburst”, a tongue-twister of a tune that revealed her verbal as well as vocal dexterity. She then switched gears, spoke of her son and his birth which led to “The Way You Look Tonight” sung almost as a lullaby. Her delivery of “Don’t Blame Me” which had been arranged by the much-missed Mike Renzi revealed some of the truthfulness and vulnerability that makes her such a beloved performer. A hint of Peggy Lee was to be spotted, which just added to the magic of the evening. There was plenty of scat and lots of giggles as Sally told stories about her mother, life in Westchester, and other peeks into her life that made her feel like an old friend.
If you missed this performance, fear not—there’s more to come! Sally will be returning to The Green Room 42 (570 Tenth Avenue in YOTEL). Make reservations early—you don’t want to miss these two:
The Stories on May 16 and The Broadway Extravaganza on June 20
One caution: The overly enthusiastic lighting features the equivalent of headlights flashing, quite disconcerting and unnecessary. It had me yearning for my cataracts. Next time I’ll bring sunglasses.
An Evening With Richard Holbrook and The Tom Nelson Trio
Richard Holbrook along with The Tom Nelson Trio performed at 54 Below in Richard Holbrook: Twenty Plus Four In 2024. This anniversary show celebrated Mr Holbrook’s twenty-four years of singing in New York City. With Tom Nelson on piano; Tom Kirchmer on bass; and John Redsecker on drums they returned to 54 Below this week with his latest show, directed by MAC Award-winning cabaret performer Jeff Harnar.
As always Richard shows his sophisticated style making each song very personal. He can take any song and add his personal touch. Richard is also a four-time MAC Award nominee. My favorite part of the show was Richard’s take on some of Charles Aznavour songs. He shows off his deep understanding of Aznavour’s dramatic songs.
Richard’s debut in musical theater happened when he was a freshman in high school and got cast in a production of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. This began a life-long love affair with performing. Richard appeared on such hit television series as “The Sopranos”, “Spin City”, and “Law & Order: (Season 22). No stranger to daytime television, he frequently appeared in “All My Children” and “One Life to Live”. In regional theatre he performed in productions which included leading roles in Deathtrap and The Subject Was Roses.
In 1985 Richard started performing in cabaret venues throughout Manhattan which he continues to do to this day. Over the years, he has done highly acclaimed cabaret shows with musical direction by Tom Nelson. In 2003, he did a tribute to Fred Astaire by focusing on the legendary dancer’s other talents … that of a singer and a musician. The act Richard Holbrook: The Untapped Fred Astaire, received critical acclaim. In August, 2004, Richard released his first CD entitled Richard Holbrook Steps Out. This recording features Richard, accompanied by The Tom Nelson Trio, singing several well-known songs from his Astaire show and other selections by such composers as Portia Nelson, Ronny Whyte, and Kander & Ebb.
Between 2008 and 2015, Richard successfully performed his cabaret act Richard Sings Burton – The Songs of Burton Lane at such venues as Don’t Tell Mama, The Metropolitan Room, and Feinstein’s/54 Below. In March, 2015, Richard reprised the show at Feinstein’s / 54 Below. After that, Richard’s tribute to the legendary composer Richard Rodgers, Richard Holbrook: Richard Sings Rodgers With A Lot Of Heart, was presented in October, 2015 at The Metropolitan Room. It received excellent notices and played to sell-out crowds. All three tribute shows – Fred Astaire, Burton Lane, and Richard Rodgers – were directed by Richard Barclay.
In 2013, Richard was diagnosed with single cell carcinoma (cancer of the jaw) and successfully underwent a thirteen-hour operation in which his jaw was replaced with the fibula of his left leg. After five months of recovery, Richard resumed his singing career. For the past several years, Richard has presented a musical tribute to the lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner, as well as his annual Christmas cabaret fund-raising shows at Don’t Tell Mama for The Cancer Support Community. In the summer of 2024, Richard and his musical director Tom Nelson presented his anniversary show at 54 Below celebrating their twenty-three years of working together. This show was a reprise that show.
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