Barry Manilow’s musical has flaws, but stellar singing

Barry Manilow’s new musical “Concord” may start with the lyric: His title was Josef! He was a rabbi!

The melody from “Copacabana” isn’t discovered right here — this isn’t a jukebox present — however the tunefulness the singer is understood for abounds. It’s a number of the higher high quality stage scores of the theater season.

Manilow’s musical, which opened Wednesday evening off-Broadway (the composer examined optimistic for COVID and sadly couldn’t attend), has rather a lot going for it. The drama is a couple of little-known, fascinating piece of World Warfare II historical past that can have audiences racing to Google at intermission. Manilow’s rating, with lyrics by Bruce Sussman, is fairly and sometimes touching. And all the singers are sensational. 

Nonetheless, there’s some discord.

Theater evaluation

2 hour and half-hour with one intermission. On the Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Pl. By Could 8.

“Concord,” which has been floating across the US for greater than three many years, tells the story of the Comic Harmonists, a well-liked German jokey music group within the Nineteen Twenties that was virtually misplaced to time after Hitler rose to energy.

The group performed Carnegie Corridor and palled round with Albert Einstein, Josephine Baker and Marlene Dietrich. They toured all around the world, offered tens of millions of data and made some seven movies. Three of the members had been Jewish or of Jewish descent, whereas the opposite three had been gentiles. 

Josef (Danny Kornfeld) is known as Rabbi as a result of he left the Torah to go on tour; he’s joined by a blood-hating surgeon (Eric Peters), a whorehouse pianist (Blake Roman), an opera bass (Sean Bell), a Bulgarian (Steven Telsey) and an actor (Zal Owen).

The Comic Harmonists are performed by Blake Roman, Steven Telsey, Zal Owen, Danny Kornfeld, Eric Peters and Sean Bell.
Julieta Cervantes

All of them sing sublimely, collectively and aside — and are formidable yuksters. However it’s Roman, who’s simply out of college, that’s probably the most unimaginable discover. He has a soothing, soulful solo in Act 2 that’s sadly lower quick. It may’ve fortunately gone on endlessly.

The complexity of the present arrives when German Jews are stripped of their rights all through the nation, and Jewish music is banned, however Hitler permits the Comic Harmonists to maintain performing anyway. The group, the Third Reich decides, can act as propaganda for Nazi Germany overseas.

Whereas the musical’s biggest asset is the sextet of musicians, the true lead is veteran actor Chip Zien taking part in Rabbi (and another hilarious shock characters) in outdated age.

The narrator position is a brand new addition to the present, directed by Warren Carlyle, presumably to lend some gravitas and perspective — and Zien is in glorious type. However the position’s inclusion each spoils his character’s eventual destiny (he’s clearly not an angel) and provides all the pieces a stuffy air of nostalgia. We’re all the time trying again.

Chip Zien narrates "Harmony" as Rabbi in old age.
Chip Zien narrates “Concord” as Rabbi in outdated age.
Julieta Cervantes

The e-book, by Manilow’s longtime collaborator Sussman, additionally tends to leap to extremes. A big portion of the primary act is spent introducing us to the six Comic Harmonists in a catchy however lengthy opening quantity. They then have a blink-and-you-miss-it sequence of being unknowns and — hey presto! — are abruptly world-famous. The Borscht Belt jokes all through are enjoyable, however there are just a few too many. 

Two roles that might use extra meat are the wives, performed by Sierra Boggess and Jessie Davidson. Conflicted about their husbands’ roles in Germany’s ethical downfall, they’re probably fascinating. But, nonetheless attractive their music is, the elements come off as slight.

As does the design. Beowulf Boritt’s set of TV screens and minimal furnishings certainly is hamstrung by a downtown funds. It might be good to see one thing extra transportive and evocative.

So “Concord”’s lengthy journey continues. However with Manilow’s high quality music, and this extraordinary firm of actors, it’s price the additional mileage.

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