A Deep Dive into the Harmony Musical

When the captivating story of the Comedian Harmonists meets the musical genius of Barry Manilow and the storytelling of Bruce Sussman, the result is “Harmony – A Musical”, a Broadway musical that has been attracting audiences since its debut. With a talented cast, exceptional music, and a true story that resonates with audiences, Harmony takes us on a journey through the rise and fall of the world’s very first boy band.

Key Takeaways

  • Journey of Harmony: From Inception to Broadway follows the musical’s evolution from 1997 to its 2023 Broadway debut

  • The show achieved great success Off-Broadway in 2022 and is directed/choreographed by Warren Carlyle with an original cast album

  • The story behind the show illustrates the power of art and the importance of unity, revolutionizing music & culture through innovative close harmony singing

Journey of Harmony: From Inception to Broadway

harmony broadway musical

The evolution of Harmony, a fresh musical, is quite extraordinary. It began in 1997, with a passionate and dedicated team, including Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman, who worked tirelessly to bring the incredible story of the Comedian Harmonists to life. From its humble beginnings at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, to the prestigious Manhattan concert productions, Harmony has evolved into a beloved Broadway production.

Despite facing numerous challenges, including a canceled Broadway debut in 2004 because of insufficient funds, the musical did eventually triumph. The perseverance paid off, and the Harmony musical found success in Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Off-Broadway before finally making its triumphant Broadway debut in 2023.

The San Diego Beginnings

Harmony premiered at the Mandell Weiss Theatre in San Diego, California, in 1997. The production showcased the exceptional talents of:

  • Danny Burstein

  • Rebecca Luker

  • Patrick Wilson

  • Janet Mez

The production was directed by David Warren, with a creative team that had experience working on shows such as Funny Girl.

Although the San Diego production received mixed reviews, it laid the foundation for the development of Harmony, which would go on to attract audiences in other cities and on Broadway.

Atlanta and Los Angeles Performances

Following its initial run in San Diego, Harmony journeyed to the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta on September 15, 2013, and subsequently to the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles on March 12, 2014. Directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, the musical received a range of reviews, from praise for the singing and the cast’s talent to suggestions that the show required more work.

Despite the varied responses, the musical progressively improved, attracting increased praise from audiences and critics in later productions.

Off-Broadway Success

Before making its way to Broadway, a heavily re-worked Harmony found success Off-Broadway in 2022. Showcased at the NY Theater Festival Winterfest, the final Off-Broadway cast, including:

  • Danny Kornfeld as Rabbi

  • Steve Telsey as Lesh

  • Sean Bell as Bobby

  • Eric Peters as Erich

Delivering performances that showcased the musical comedy antics, catapulted the Comedian Harmonists to fame, earning them numerous London theatre credits.

With Warren Carlyle at the helm as director and choreographer, Harmony received favorable reviews, setting the stage for its future Broadway debut and potentially becoming an off Broadway production.

Broadway Debut

The long-awaited Broadway debut of Harmony a new musical, finally arrived in 2023. Directed and choreographed by the talented Warren Carlyle, the production showcased the captivating story of the Comedian Harmonists and their struggle in the face of adversity.

The original cast album, released on August 31, 2023, captured the musical brilliance of the show, further solidifying Harmony’s place in the hearts of theatergoers.

The Story Behind the Show

harmony musical history

At its core, Harmony revolves around the true story of the Comedian Harmonists, a group of six talented young men who came together in 1920s Germany. Their unique blend of intricate close harmonies and uproarious stage antics captured the hearts of audiences worldwide. As their fame grew, so did the challenges they faced, including the rise of Nazism and the eventual disbanding of the group.

The tale of the Comedian Harmonists underscores the influential role of art and the significance of solidarity amidst adversity.

The Rise of the Comedian Harmonists

The Comedian Harmonists, consisting of:

  • Harry Frommermann

  • Asparuh ‘Ari’ Leschnikoff

  • Erich A. Collin

  • Roman Cycowski

  • Robert Biberti

  • Erwin Bootz

The group rose to fame between 1928 and 1934, with their first performance in Berlin’s Grosses Schauspielhaus in 1928 marking the beginning of a meteoric rise that saw them achieve immense success with sold-out performances, records, and movie appearances.

Their unique style of close harmony singing and comical stage antics resonated with audiences, making them an international sensation.

Impact on Music and Culture

The Comedian Harmonists had a significant influence on music and culture during their time. Their innovative approach to close harmony singing bridged the gap between classical and popular music, introducing a new style that was widely embraced by audiences around the world.

Their success also marked the first time an all-male close harmony ensemble achieved global recognition, paving the way for future generations of performers who would be inspired by their unique blend of music and humor.

The Group’s Legacy

The Comedian Harmonists’ legacy continues to endure, even after their untimely disbanding in 1935 due to the rise of Nazism. Their music has been celebrated in various forms, such as the Harmony musical, and their story serves as a testament to the power of art in overcoming adversity.

Today, the Comedian Harmonists are remembered as pioneers of close harmony singing, and their innovative style and captivating performances continue to inspire artists and audiences alike.

Creative Minds Behind Harmony

The triumph of Harmony is a testament to the synergy of its skilled creative team, which includes composer Barry Manilow, book and lyrics author Bruce Sussman, and director-choreographer Warren Carlyle. Each of these creative minds brought their unique skills and vision to the project, resulting in a musical that is both entertaining and emotionally impactful.

Barry Manilow’s Musical Genius

barry manilow harmony musical

Barry Manilow’s musical genius is evident in the original score he composed for Harmony. Known for his hit recordings such as “Could It Be Magic” and “Looks Like We Made It,” Manilow’s signature style and emotional resonance can be heard throughout the musical.

Bruce Sussman’s Compelling Book and Lyrics

Bruce Sussman’s captivating storytelling and lyrics provide the backbone of Harmony. His adeptness in crafting a compelling narrative and lyrical composition brings the characters and plot to life, allowing audiences to fully immerse themselves in the world of the Comedian Harmonists. Sussman’s work not only enhances the emotional impact of the musical but also provides a solid foundation for the talented cast to showcase their abilities.

Warren Carlyle’s Visionary Direction and Choreography

Warren Carlyle’s visionary direction and choreography play a significant role in bringing Harmony to life. His experience as a dancer, coupled with his Tony Award-winning choreography skills, provides a unique and dynamic movement to the show. Carlyle’s direction and choreography add an extra layer of depth and emotion to the performances, enriching the storytelling and providing a harmonious experience for the audience.

A Look at the Cast

The talented cast of Harmony brings the story of the Comedian Harmonists to life with their exceptional performances. From leading actors to supporting cast and ensemble members, each performer plays a pivotal role in the success of the show. Their dedication to their roles and the story of the Comedian Harmonists allows audiences to fully immerse themselves in the world of Harmony and experience the emotional journey of the characters.

Guided by the creative minds behind the show, the cast of Harmony has played an essential role in the musical’s acclaim and success. Their ability to captivate audiences with their powerful voices, emotive acting, and skillful dancing has contributed to the ongoing appreciation and admiration for the Comedian Harmonists’ story and the Harmony musical.

Leading Actors

The stars of Harmony, including:

  • Chip Zien

  • Sierra Boggess

  • Julie Benko

  • Sean Bell

  • Danny Kornfeld

  • Zal Owen

  • Eric Peters

showcase their exceptional talent and performances as they bring the story of the Comedian Harmonists to life. Their dedication to their roles and the show’s narrative allows audiences to connect with the characters on a deeper level, experiencing the emotional journey of the Comedian Harmonists as their story unfolds on stage.

Supporting Cast

The supporting cast of Harmony includes:

  • Elise Frances Daniells

  • Zak Edwards

  • Abby Goldfarb

  • Eddie Grey

They bring depth to the story and contribute to the overall success of the show. Their performances in various roles throughout the production help to create a rich and immersive experience for audiences, allowing them to fully appreciate the Comedian Harmonists’ journey and the challenges they faced.

Ensemble Members

The ensemble members of Harmony play a crucial role in the show’s success, as they provide the backdrop for the world of the Comedian Harmonists. With their dynamic performances and harmonious vocals, the ensemble supports the leading and supporting cast members, allowing the story to unfold seamlessly and capturing the essence of the Comedian Harmonists’ unique blend of music and humor.

Memorable Musical Numbers

Harmony boasts unforgettable musical pieces that highlight the varied capabilities of the cast and the artistic team. From powerful ballads that tug at the heartstrings to upbeat tunes that get audiences tapping their feet, the musical numbers in Harmony are an integral part of the show’s success. The songs not only provide a captivating soundtrack for the story but also serve as a testament to the musical prowess of the Comedian Harmonists.

Split into Act I highlights and Act II climactic pieces, the exceptional musical numbers in Harmony exhibit the breadth and adaptability of the cast, alongside Barry Manilow’s musical brilliance and Bruce Sussman’s narrative skills. These unforgettable songs capture the spirit of the Comedian Harmonists and leave a lasting impression on audiences long after the curtain falls.

Act I Favorites

The most memorable and beloved songs from Act I of Harmony include ‘Harmony’, ‘And What Do You See?’, and ‘This Is Our Time’. These songs set the tone for the musical and introduce audiences to the world of the Comedian Harmonists, showcasing their exceptional talent and the unique blend of music and comedy that made them famous.

With powerful melodies and captivating lyrics, these Act I favorites leave audiences eager to see what the rest of the show has in store.

Act II Showstoppers

Act II of Harmony is filled with unforgettable musical numbers that bring the show to a thrilling conclusion. Songs like ‘How Can I Serve You Madam?’ and ‘The Wedding’ showcase the incredible talent of the cast and highlight the emotional journey of the Comedian Harmonists as they face the challenges of their time.

With powerful performances and captivating melodies, these Act II showstoppers leave audiences breathless and wanting more.

Critical Acclaim and Awards

Since its early days, Harmony has drawn praise and accolades, underscoring the abilities of its cast, artistic team, and the intriguing tale of the Comedian Harmonists. From its Off-Broadway success to its Broadway debut, Harmony has garnered numerous accolades and nominations, highlighting the impact it has had on audiences and the world of theater.

The critical reception of Harmony has been generally positive, with many critics praising the harmonious performances of the singing group and the emotionally stirring storyline. Despite some divergent opinions concerning the music, the overall consensus is that Harmony is a powerful and moving musical that deserves recognition and praise.

Reviews from Critics

Critics have praised Harmony for its outstanding:

  • music

  • acting

  • singing

  • dancing

  • comedy

  • dramatic elements

The New York Times reported that the musical portrays the true story of the Comedian Harmonists, a sextet comprised of both Jews and gentiles in Weimar-era Germany, highlighting the group’s demise during the Nazi period. The Los Angeles Times noted that while the pit orchestra sounds excellent, some segments of the show are implausible.

Despite these mixed reviews, the overall critical reception of Harmony has been positive, emphasizing the strengths of the musical and the captivating performances of its talented cast.

Awards and Nominations

Harmony has been honored with numerous awards and nominations, including the 2023 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical and the Best New Musical award at the 2022 Off-Broadway Alliance Awards. The musical has also been nominated for the Drama Desk Awards, Outer Critics Circle Awards, and Lucille Lortel Awards, showcasing its success and recognition in the world of theater.

Audience Reactions

Audience reactions to Harmony, a Tony award-winning musical, have been mixed, with some praising the powerful performances and moving storyline, while others felt the show lacked depth. Despite these differing opinions, Harmony has received the Best New Musical Award from the Off-Broadway Alliance, and the music by Barry Manilow has been lauded for its memorable songs.

Venue Spotlight: Ethel Barrymore Theater

ethel barrymore theater harmony

The venerable Ethel Barrymore Theater, situated at 243 West 47th Street in New York City, has housed the Harmony musical since its Broadway inception. With a rich history and a seating capacity of 1,058, this theater provides the perfect setting for audiences to experience the captivating story of the Comedian Harmonists.

In addition to hosting the Harmony musical, the Ethel Barrymore Theater offers the following benefits:

  • It is right in the heart of New York City’s theater district

  • It is surrounded by various eateries, drinking establishments, and other attractions for visitors to enjoy before or after the show

  • Its central location and historical significance make it an ideal venue for theatergoers to experience the magic of Harmony.

Theater History

Built in 1928 by the Shubert family and conceived by Herbert J. Krapp, the Ethel Barrymore Theater boasts a rich theatrical history. Named in honor of the celebrated American actress Ethel Barrymore, the theater has been home to numerous successful Broadway shows and has been continuously used for plays and musicals since its opening.

As the only surviving theater built by Lee and J.J. Shubert for performers associated with them, the Ethel Barrymore Theater holds a special place in Broadway history, boasting numerous York theater credits.

Seating and Accessibility

The Ethel Barrymore Theater provides a range of seating choices, most notably the Orchestra section, the largest area housing around 582 seats split among Left, Right, and Center sections. Accessible seating options are available in the lower sections, with wheelchair spaces and companion seats.

The theater also provides accommodations for patrons who are blind, deaf, partially sighted, and/or have hearing loss, offering hearing assistance devices and captioning for deaf or hard-of-hearing patrons.

Location and Nearby Attractions

Positioned in New York City’s theater district, the Ethel Barrymore Theater is easily reachable by subway or even on foot. Nearby subway stations include 47-50 Sts-Rockefeller Ctr and 42 St-Port Authority Bus Terminal.

In addition to the theater itself, the surrounding area boasts a variety of restaurants, bars, and attractions for visitors to enjoy before or after the show, ensuring a memorable experience for theatergoers attending Harmony.


Harmony is a captivating and emotionally stirring musical that tells the true story of the Comedian Harmonists, a group of six talented young men who rose to fame in the 1920s and faced adversity during the rise of Nazism. With exceptional music by Barry Manilow, compelling storytelling by Bruce Sussman, and visionary direction and choreography by Warren Carlyle, Harmony has captured the hearts of audiences and critics alike. As the musical continues its successful run at the historic Ethel Barrymore Theater, the unforgettable story of the Comedian Harmonists will continue to inspire and enchant theatergoers for years to come.

Harmony Musical New York Schedule

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the story behind Harmony the musical?

Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman’s musical, Harmony, tells the true story of the forgotten German performing group The Comedian Harmonists. Regarded as one of the first boy bands, they recorded popular albums and sold-out venues around the globe.

Who is Harmony based on?

Harmony is based on The Comedian Harmonist Archive curated by the late Dr. Peter Czada.

Is the play Harmony based on a true story?

Harmony is indeed based on a true story, as it chronicles the remarkable rise and fall of the Comedian Harmonists, a vocal group comprised of six members from Germany in the late 1920s. The members’ Jewish heritage ultimately resulted in their eventual erasure from history.

What Theatre is Harmony on Broadway?

Harmony is playing on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.

Who are the creative minds behind the Harmony musical?

The creative minds behind the Harmony musical are composer Barry Manilow, author of the book and lyrics Bruce Sussman, and director and choreographer Warren Carlyle.