Barry Manilow fulfills childhood dream with Broadway musical 'Harmony'

Sandy Kenyon Image
Monday, November 27, 2023
Barry Manilow fulfills childhood dream with Broadway's 'Harmony'
Sandy Kenyon has more on Manilow's Broadway show.

MANHATTAN, New York City (WABC) -- Barry Manilow is an accidental star -- he never set out to be an entertainer -- and after growing up in Williamsburg, he dreamt of composing music for a Broadway show.

Now, after selling 85 million records as a singer, Barry from Brooklyn has achieved his original goal.

They might have been the most famous group ever to be completely forgotten -- until a Broadway show brought them back into the spotlight.

In 1927, three Jewish singers formed a group with three gentiles in Berlin calling themselves "The Comedian Harmonists." By 1935, they were never heard from again, forced to disband due to Nazi persecution.

"They didn't want Jews and gentiles to make harmony together," lyricist Bruce Sussman said.

Sussman has been writing words to go with the melodies of Barry Manilow for more than 50 years.

"He was from Brooklyn, I was from Queens. Hit it off right away. We started working together the next day," he said.

By the time Manilow performed their famous hit, Copacabana, on the BBC in England, the pair had already been collaborating for half a decade. They would spend many more years trying to stage the Broadway musical they wrote together.

"We had four productions of it, and all four were beautiful, and everybody loved it, and we couldn't get it into New York," Manilow said.

Before he wrote the songs the whole world sings, Manilow dreamt of composing for Broadway, making this the fulfillment of a childhood dream for the boy from Williamsburg.

"I wanted to be a songwriter, an arranger, a conductor, a producer. The last thing in my mind ever when I was younger was to be the guy standing on stage, holding a microphone and entertaining an audience," Manilow said.

Manilow began writing songs and playing the piano for Bette Midler when she was not yet famous. He recorded what were called demos -- original songs he sang himself, and record companies soon after decided they liked the songs and the singer.