The event: Opening night at the Ahmanson Theatre for “Harmony,” a musical by Barry Manilow and longtime collaborator Bruce Sussman about the Comedian Harmonists, a real-life troupe of musicians who became world-famous entertainers in pre-World War II Germany before the Nazis rose to power and prohibited the group's Jewish members from performing.
The crowd: Actors Dana Delany, Suzanne Somers and Jason Alexander, among others, turned up at the Ahmanson Theatre on Wednesday, along with noted songwriters David Zippel of “City of Angels,” Richard Sherman of “Mary Poppins” (played by Jason Schwartzman in “Saving Mr. Banks”) and Carol Bayer Sager, who attended with her husband Robert Daly; Michael Feinstein, famous for reviving the “Great American Songbook;” and Michael Kerker, director of musical theater for ASCAP.
“I’m a ‘fan-ilow,’” said Tony-winner Alexander, who is a friend of Manilow’s. Alexander said Manilow appeared at the annual gala for L.A.’s Reprise Theatre during Alexander's years as artistic director, and that he’d gone to Las Vegas to catch Manilow’s act there.
The party: Following curtain calls, well-wishers packed nearby Ebanos Crossing, a cozy, dimly lighted cocktail lounge, to congratulate Manilow, Sussman and the cast.
The show was a work in progress for more than 20 years. Sussman said he’d first seen a documentary about the troupe in 1991 and discussed the idea with Manilow, who became enthusiastic immediately.
“It’s an important story,” Manilow said, “and I wanted to tell it.”
Sussman said he researched the project for the next four years, in the process discovering the last surviving member of the troupe living four blocks from Manilow in Palm Springs. “I used to walk my dog past his house,” Manilow said.
Quote of note: Following a standing ovation, Manilow declared to the audience, “What do you say when a dream comes true?”
More details: The play continues at the Center Theatre Group/ Ahmanson Theatre through April 13. Click here for ticket information or call (213) 972-4400.
Ellen Olivier is founder of Society News LA.