Curtain Up on Harmony: A Comprehensive Guide for the Broadway Bound Production
The world of theatre and performing arts boasts a rich history of talent, drama, and cultural significance, with Broadway as its shining jewel. Located in the heart of New York City, Broadway has captivated audiences worldwide for over a century, shaping not just the American theatre industry but also making a significant impact on global culture. It has been the birthplace of numerous iconic plays and musicals that have forever left their imprint on the world stage. In 2023, Broadway will welcome a new addition to the stage —Harmony.
Harmony is a tale of hope, unity, and the power of music, themes that resonate profoundly with audiences, especially in challenging times. We're going to take a deep dive into how Harmony is lighting up Broadway this season, covering the plot and the creative minds behind it, the cast reviving the Comedian Hormonists for the modern audience, and everything that makes this production worth including into your itinerary next time you are in New York.
The Roots of Harmony
This ambitious musical has a rich history behind it that adds to its depth. It was conceived by the legendary pop duo Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman as a tribute to the Comedian Harmonists, a popular German musical group in the 1920s and 1930s. The musical's narrative weaves a tale that is as much about the power of music as it is about the historical period it is set in.
Manilow and Sussman's inspiration for Harmony emerged from their shared fascination with the Comedian Harmonists. They were intrigued by the group's rise to fame as well as the hardships they faced under the Nazis. The musical group’s diverse backgrounds and their ultimate fate provided a compelling premise for a musical. The creators aimed to capture this unique story through their script and score, infusing it with both the joy and the sorrow that marked the lives of the Harmonists.
The show first premiered in California in 1997, where it received positive reviews for its engaging storyline, memorable music, and dynamic performances. Its subsequent off-Broadway run further solidified its status as a powerful musical. The show's journey to Broadway has been a long and challenging one, marked by financial difficulties and production setbacks. However, the passion and determination of its creators and cast have kept the dream alive. As it prepares for its Broadway debut in 2023, Harmony carries with it the hopes and dreams of all those who have been involved in its journey. It stands as a testament to the power of perseverance and the enduring appeal of a story well told through music.
The Story and Characters
Harmony chronicles the real-life story of the Comedian Harmonists, a group of six talented musicians who rose to fame in pre-World War II Germany. The plot takes audiences from their humble beginnings to their unbelievable success and then to their eventual dissolution in the face of the rising Nazi regime. The musical explores themes of friendship, love, courage, and the power of art in the face of adversity and historical conflicts. It's a story that echoes through time, resonating with the experiences of artists across generations.
At the heart of Harmony are the six members of the band - Rabbi, Harry, Chopin, Lesh, Bobby, and Erich. Each character brings a unique perspective and voice to the group, and it's through their interactions that the story unfolds. Rabbi is a dreamer, with unwavering faith in music's power to unite people. Harry, the romantic, falls in love with Ruth, a beautiful singer, and this relationship adds an emotional depth to the narrative. Chopin, Lesh, Bobby, and Erich each have their own quirks and strengths that contribute to the group's dynamic chemistry. They stand together through trials and tribulations, their bond growing stronger with every challenge they face.
Harmony is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of music to transcend boundaries. The characters, each with their unique personalities and dreams, are the beating heart of this narrative, making it a musical experience that audiences will remember long after the curtain falls.
Historical Commentary in Harmony
Harmony is more than just a musical; it's a powerful commentary on a crucial period in history. Set in pre-war Germany, the show reflects on the socio-political climate of the era, an epoch marked by rapid changes, rising tensions, and the ominous growth of the Nazi regime. It’s a world where art and culture thrived even as the shadow of oppression and persecution loomed large. The creators of Harmony have effectively painted a picture of this time, beautifully capturing its vibrancy and impending darkness.
A significant aspect of Harmony is its portrayal of the Jewish members of the Comedian Harmonist and the persecution they faced—-three members, Frommermann, Collin, and Cycowski, were Jewish or of Jewish descent, and Bootz was married to a Jewish woman. The show intricately weaves this narrative into its plot, reflecting the horrifying realities of the period. It doesn't shy away from depicting the anti-Semitism of the time, as well as the political censorship German entertainers had to grapple with that ultimately led to the disbanding of the group. This historical accuracy lends authenticity to the production, making it a poignant reflection on the past.
The characters' dreams, struggles, and relationships are all shaped by the era they live in. Their stories are not just personal narratives but a testament to the spirit of the time. For instance, Rabbi's dream of creating a musical group that transcends religious and racial boundaries is a direct response to the growing divisions in society. Similarly, the characters' ultimate fates - being forced to split up, flee their homeland, and surrender their ability to perform - serve as a poignant reminder of history's grim turn.
Musical Elements and Choreography
The appeal of Harmony is indelible from its musical score and expressive choreography, which together form the heartbeat of this musical. Barry Manilow, a master of melody, has created a score that complements the narrative and adds another layer of depth to it. While each song in Harmony is unique, they all share a common thread – the ability to evoke emotion and advance the plot. Key songs like “Every Single Day,” a poignant love ballad, and “Where You Go," a powerful group number, bear testament to the characters' journeys and their evolving relationships.
The choreography in the show plays an instrumental role in the storytelling. It's not just about the dance sequences; it's about expressing the characters' feelings and the essence of the narrative through movement. Each step, gesture, and formation reflects the period, the characters' personalities, and the mood of the scene. From the energetic group performances that capture the camaraderie and joy of the Comedian Harmonists to the more somber sequences that convey the growing tensions, the choreography is a visual narrative in itself.
Music and dance are not just elements of entertainment in Harmony; they are integral to the overall theme of the musical. The title suggests a symphony of voices coming together to create something beautiful, a theme that resonates throughout the show and all its elements. They represent unity in diversity, resilience in the face of one of the darkest moments in human history, and the power of art to transcend boundaries.
Production Design and Costumes
In any stage production, the set design plays a vital role in immersing the audience in the narrative, and Harmony is no exception. The set beautifully captures the essence of 1920s Germany, from the buzzy streets of Berlin to the grandeur of concert halls. Each scene transitions smoothly into the next, allowing the narrative to flow seamlessly.
Costumes provide insight into the characters' personalities, their societal status, and their evolution throughout the narrative. For instance, the transformation of the Comedian Harmonists from average men to celebrated performers is reflected in their changing attire. The costumes also accurately reflect the fashion of the 1920s, adding another layer of authenticity to the musical.
Props and lighting in the show are strategically used to create mood and atmosphere. The use of props, such as musical instruments and vintage microphones, adds to the historical accuracy of the musical. The lighting design, on the other hand, plays a pivotal role in setting the tone of each scene. It shifts from bright and energetic during the group's performances to dark and somber during the more dramatic moments. This manipulation of light and shade not only enhances the emotional impact of each scene but also underscores the larger themes of the musical.
How to Experience Harmony
Harmony’s much-anticipated Broadway run promises audiences a valuable theatrical experience. The show will be performed at the illustrious Barrymore Theatre, a historical venue that has been home to many iconic Broadway productions, like Stephen Sondheim’s Company (2006), Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (2012), and Simon Stephens’ The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2014). With its rich history and grand Elizabethan, Mediterranean, and Adam-style design, the Barrymore Theatre makes for the perfect setting to experience the show.
Securing tickets to Harmony is easy with Broadway Inbound’s online platform. For the best seats, it is advisable to book well in advance as the show is expected to gain considerable popularity. Broadway Inbound offers unique discounts for group bookings, making it an affordable outing for families, friends, schools, clubs, or corporate events. While every seat in the theatre offers a distinctive view of the action, the center, or just off center, orchestra and front mezzanine sections are often the first choice for seating, depending on budget, because they provide a great view of the stage and are often preferred by experienced theatregoers and out of town visitors seeking the best possible seating .
For those who wish to dive deeper into the historical context of the show, there are a host of resources available. Books like Comedian Harmonists: Six Life Stories by Douglas Friedman offer a detailed account of the group's journey. Documentaries like All the Right Notes Not Necessarily in the Right Order, a 30-minute radio documentary, provide an audio narrative that complements the musical's storyline.
With the Broadway season in full swing, there's no better time to immerse yourself in the magic of theatre. Harmony, with its compelling narrative and emotionally variegated score, is definitely a must-see this season.