Harmony Review: A Shallow Glance at Truth in Manilow & Sussman's Dazzling Show

Exploring the Depths of 'Harmony's' Historical Narrative.

by Nouman Rasool
Harmony Review: A Shallow Glance at Truth in Manilow & Sussman's Dazzling Show
© Dimitrios Kambouris/GettyImages

"Harmony," a new musical creation by the renowned Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman, is currently mesmerizing audiences at Broadway's Ethel Barrymore Theater. This intriguing production, narrated by a talented Chip Zien portraying an elderly rabbi, unravels the gripping yet lesser-known tale of the Comedian Harmonists.

This group, formed in 1927 Berlin, comprised six young men who, amidst the harrowing rise of the Nazis, achieved international stardom with their comedic and musical prowess. Intriguingly, the rabbi, one of three Jewish members in the ensemble, subtly hints at being the group's sole survivor, adding a poignant undertone to the narrative.

Contrary to expectations of a narrative steeped in fear and tragedy, "Harmony" surprises with its blend of glitz and an almost superficial treatment of the era's grim realities. The play mainly features lively performances of Manilow's catchy compositions, which the group performs at prestigious venues like Carnegie Hall during their world tours.

Remarkably, the Nazis, some of whom are depicted as fans of the music, seem indifferent to the group's Jewish members, allowing them to travel freely long after others have been oppressed.

Underestimated Threats Unfold

A significant theme of "Harmony" is the young men's underestimation of the Nazi threat, a narrative thread that, while compelling, doesn't fully flesh out the plot.

A notable subplot involves one of the singers marrying a Jewish resistance fighter, portrayed with finesse by Julie Benko. Their initially idyllic union tragically unravels due to his passive response to the looming danger.

This storyline, along with whimsical cameos by historical figures like Albert Einstein and Josephine Baker, contributes to the narrative's more engaging moments. "Harmony" thus emerges as a unique Broadway offering, juxtaposing the dark backdrop of Nazi Germany with the vibrant spirit and artistry of the Comedian Harmonists.

While the play's treatment of its serious subject matter might seem light-handed, it effectively captures the paradox of art thriving under oppressive regimes, inviting audiences to reflect on the complexities of history and human resilience.

This Broadway spectacle, with its mix of historical depth and entertainment, is poised to leave an indelible mark on its viewers.