Harmony: The Emotional Journey of a Singing Group Destroyed by NazisNovember 14, 2023
The new Broadway musical “Harmony” about the Comedian Harmonists, a German singing group destroyed by the Nazis in the 1930s, has structural flaws, but its impact has been enhanced with the changing world events. The musical has a familiar message, but it now carries more emotional weight and gravitas. The cautionary tale of the group’s blindness to the danger signs of their imminent destruction is now met with sustained applause.
Barry Manilow’s remarkable score, written at the age of 80, adds to the musical’s exceptional experience. The addition of Sierra Borgess and Julie Benko also enriches the Broadway production. Benko delivers a powerful performance, adding depth to her underwritten character, and pulling every emotion from the show’s signature ballad. The musical is structured as a memory musical, with an older member of the group serving as the narrator.
Despite the choppy interaction between narration and dramatization, the expanded staging and visual ideas enhance the overall emotional impact. The show borrows elements from “Cabaret” and “The Sound of Music.” The narration takes up a lot of stage time but adds authenticity and likability to the show. The vocal arrangements by Manilow and John O’Neill bring an uncommon amount of theatricality to the production.
In the end, “Harmony” aims to show what could have been, a band that represented the best of Germany. The rise of hate extinguished the harmony of the Comedian Harmonists, leaving audiences to ponder what might have been and what could still be.