A New Kind of Harmony: Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman's Musical Plays Ahmanson Theatre

By Evan Henerson
13 Mar 2014

Hannah Corneau and Leigh Ann Larkin in Harmony.
Photo by Craig Schwartz

As was the case with Metz and several other cast members, Warren came to Harmony directly from the recently shuttered Broadway revival of Once Upon A Mattress. Warren, who is no relation to the director, was one of the last principles cast.

He was also the last to leave. Warren was part of every subsequent incarnation of Harmony from a star-packed industry reading at the Douglas Fairbanks Theatre (where Brian d'Arcy James and Christiane Noll replaced Burstein and Luker) to a planned out-of-town engagement that died before it could get to Philadelphia.

Warren toured with Manilow and fellow Harmony singers in an effort to raise interest and funders, but the project stalled. Now with the new version of the show about to open, Warren said any bittersweet feelings over having aged out of the play are tempered by his pride for Manilow and Sussman finally getting to see their baby walk again.

"After 27 years of doing this professionally, Harmony is still the pinnacle for me creatively and artistically," said Warren, who is currently performing in the Broadway company of The Lion King, "and a lot of that comes down not only to Bruce and Barry's words and notes. The way they handled this piece of storytelling has always been graceful and wonderful and so full of love."

The creators maintain this new version has been reassembled entirely on their terms. The La Jolla Playhouse version — which received mixed reviews — was lengthy and included a first act that ran nearly two hours. For the reboot, directed by Tony Speciale, songs have been added, while others have been cut and some have given to different characters. The creators joke that "Every Single Day," originally written for Rabbi, has been sung by every character in the show.

A person who listens to Manilow's catalog will not necessarily expect to hear male singers united in intricate six-part harmony or to hear two women sing a duet ("Where You Go") inspired by the Book of Ruth.

"Pop music was always the most difficult for me because you've got nothing to write about except 'I love you' or 'I miss you,'" said Manilow. "That's it for 30 years: I love you or I miss you. Every time Bruce and I would try to do something a little more interesting, Clive would say, 'Oh that belongs in a Broadway play.'