Barry Manilow says that even if he’d been the only person watching “Smash,” he was determined to hang with it.
The pop-music icon will spend most of his summer prepping the relaunch of “Harmony,” a stage show about a wartime singing group that he and longtime creative partner Bruce Sussman first produced in 1997. An extensively revised version opens at Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre in September, and Manilow appreciates the show-mounting struggles the characters on NBC’s recently ended Broadway drama “Smash” faced.
“It’s been a very tough road for this beautiful show,” Manilow tells Zap2it of “Harmony,” maintaining it was “never, ever” because of the content. “It was always because of investors and producers, all the people you need to deal with when you’re trying to raise $15 million to $18 million and get to New York.
“We just had bad luck. We would sign a contract and they’d keep us (on hold) for three years and then another two years, and Bruce and I finally just said, ‘OK, we’ve gotta stop this. It hurts too much.’ So we did, and then I thought, ‘Once more before I croak, I would just like to see my show up there.’ And we decided we would go back to where we were happiest, a regional theater.”
An engagement at Los Angeles’ Ahmanson Theatre also is planned for “Harmony” early next year, and Tony, Emmy and Grammy winner Manilow understands — all too well — everything that was involved in the fictional musicals “Bombshell” and “Hit List” on “Smash.”
“I really did like it,” he says of the series. “First of all, I’m a friend of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (the show’s principal composers), and to think that they wrote three original songs every week! And they were great songs, and to get them choreographed and performed weekly, that was quite a thing for those two guys to do. I thought they did a great job.
“I had no trouble with the show,” adds Manilow, “then I’d read these terrible reviews and think, ‘Well, I’m crazy.’ I more than liked it, I loved it.”
Manilow will share the stage with a “Smash” star — Megan Hilty — when he returns Thursday, July 4, to “A Capitol Fourth,” the annual PBS holiday special from Washington, D.C. Oscar-winning composer-conductor John Williams and “American Idol” winners Candice Glover and Scotty McCreery also will be on the bill introduced by host Tom Bergeron.
Manilow is glad he feels ready for his busy weeks ahead, after his recent bout with illness. “I don’t know why, but bronchitis loves me,” he chuckles ruefully. “I had to cancel the first week when we did the New York run (of his still-touring concert show ‘Manilow on Broadway’ last winter). I got off the plane and got the flu and bronchitis before I even got to the terminal.
“When a singer gets bronchitis, it’s over. You can’t sing, so we had to postpone and make that first week the last week, and we stayed an extra weekend … but that run was one of the top three experiences of my whole career. A New York guy coming home to those audiences? It was like going to Passover dinner every night: ‘Cousin Barry comes home!'”