“An Evening with Harmony” played as a one-night-only engagement via panel discussion/partial preview last week at the William Bremen Jewish Heritage Museum in Midtown for the much anticipated musical — slated to run Friday through Oct. 6.
Barry Manilow and writing partner Bruce Sussman were joined onstage by director Tony Speciale and Alliance Theatre Artistic Director Susan V. Booth for a lively discussion spliced with clipped vocal performances from the play.
Set in pre-World War II Germany, “Harmony” centers on the Comedian Harmonists, a popular singing group of Jews and gentiles torn apart and nearly erased from history.
“As a musician, it was really important for me to tell the world about them,” said Manilow. “They established the foundation and the architecture of the music that’s popular today. As a Jew, it was important to remind people what happened.”
The Comedian Harmonists, a sextet of crooners, sold millions of records and starred in several films before the war tore the group apart, with little history left behind.
Manilow composed the music for the show; Sussman wrote the script and lyrics.
Sussman recalled the sage words of a colleague in attempting to frame the production thematically.
“As the narrative unfolds, time and time again in the storytelling the play invites the audience to ask the question, ‘What would you have done?’” Sussman said.
“That’s what theatre does like no other art form does. … This relationship between the people on the stage and the people in the house, it inspires something …”
The collaborators saluted Booth for her instrumental role in bringing the production to Atlanta.
Speciale came aboard as director at the others’ behest.
“For me, [“Harmony”] is story about collaboration … how people can come together during adverse times and create something incredible,” said Speciale. “I think that’s a universal story.
“Also, there are members of the group who were unjustly persecuted … everyone at some moment in their lives has [experienced] persecution — and that transcends race, religion and everything else.”
The event also served as the unveiling of the Molly Blank Jewish Concert Series.
The series is a result of the museum’s partnership with the Atlanta Opera. The themed shows will be held in the intimate confines of Breman auditorium. The opening concert is aptly titled the following:
o “Music of the Holocaust commemorating the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht,” Nov. 9
— Staff Writer Megan Thornton contributed to this report.