|August 10, 2019 ||Digital Journal||"Barry Manilow masterful at Lunt-Fontanne Theater in New York Special" by Markos Papadatos|
|Acclaimed singer-songwriter Barry Manilow headlined the Lunt-Fontanne Theater in New York City, as part of his limited engagement at this historic Broadway venue. The show began with a neat video presentation on the giant videoboard. As Manilow took the hallowed Lunt-Fontanne Theater stage, he was greeted with a lengthy standing ovation from the New York audience. Backed by a gifted band of multi-instrumentalists and three background vocalists, Manilow was able to get them on their feet with his opening number "New York City Rhythm."|
"Thank you so much for coming to our show. It's great to be on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater," he acknowledged. "Let's get this party started," he said and immediately broke into "Daybreak," which he praised for its strong melodies. Manilow noted that these days there is a lack of melodies in songs that are played on the radio. Fortunately for his fans, melodies are alive and well at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater.
"Looks Like We Made It" was an expressive and powerful performance, and he had the crowd clapping and singing along with him on "Can't Smile Without You," as the lyrics displayed on the televised screens.
Manilow opened up about his roots, growing up in Brooklyn, New York. While these days, Brooklyn may be more on the "fancier" side, he noted that in his youth, it was more of a slum and his family struggled. "Brooklyn Blues" was about his upbringing and he is proud of the song since Brooklyn is still the place that keeps him grounded and humble.
One of the most poignant songs of the evening was "This One's for You," which he dedicated to his late grandfather, who picked up that Manilow was talented even from a young age. The images towards the end of this well-crafted tune of him and his grandfather, that displayed on the screen, left the audience in tears. This performance was filled with raw emotions and it is evident that he made his grandpa proud.
After an impressive sax solo and an outfit change, he sang one of his newer original songs "This Is My Town," where he took his fans on a virtual tour of New York City as they wore 3-D glasses. Manilow underscored his love for the sounds, smells, sights, and music of New York. "Maybe not the smells," he said, jokingly.
It was followed by a smooth and sultry rendition of "On Broadway," where purple and red lights dimmed from the stage. "Even Now" was a controlled ballad that had a stirring vibe to it, as it showcases his ability to hit the high notes.
His three backing vocalists joined him on stage for an upbeat version of "Let's Hang On," which had a neat arrangement to it as he paid homage to Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. Manilow was able to pacify his listers with a refreshing take on "Weekend in New England," which was sheer bliss. "Thank you. You're a romantic crowd," he told the audience, following the warm reception. "I love doing this," he added.
He also treated us to several of his commercial jingles that were popular on the radio. He picked up the pace with an uplifting version of "It's a Miracle" and honored the Broadway musical Cats with his own version of "Memory." He shared that only he and Barbra Streisand had versions of that song that were the most successful from a commercial standpoint.
"Memory" earned him a tremendous standing ovation, as did both the ballad and disco version of "Could It Be Magic" that followed. "Thank you. You are just too much," he told the crowd. "Now this sex God has to six down," he added, and went on to sing "I Made It Through the Rain." He extended his gratitude and love to his audience for all the years, stating that this level of success was something he never dreamed of.
During his chart-topping ballad "Mandy," he showed a video of him performing the song in the '70s on the giant screen, and they delivered his own distinct version of the song as the older video played in the background. It is clear that he still possesses the same talent, charisma, and charm as when he first released "Mandy," and he proved that he is one timeless performer.
Of course, no Barry Manilow concert is complete with his powerhouse tunes "I Write the Songs" and "Copacabana (at the Copa)," and he did them both justice.
The Verdict: Overall, Barry Manilow was able to put on a fantastic show at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater in Manhattan as part of his limited three-week engagement. He took his fans on a journey through time with his music, and there was a feeling of nostalgia in the venue. This production was superb from a technological standpoint (with green glow sticks and 3-D glasses) and the music was top-notch.
His birth certificate may say Barry Alan Pincus, however, in many ways, Barry Manilow is still in a league of his own. Manilow's musical catalog is iconic and he was able to touch his listeners on an emotional level. His compositions are part of the Great American Songbook, and they will stand the test of time since they don't make music like that anymore.
This show is also a substantial indication that Barry Manilow deserves to be inducted as a future member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a significant musical influence to the generations that followed, and simply because he still rocks. His live set at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater garnered five out of five stars.
|August 8, 2019 ||Forbes||"Lead Like Barry Manilow: Five Powerful Lessons From A Consummate Pop Artist" by Bruce Weinstein|
|Last night I saw Barry Manilow perform on Broadway, and I observed five things he does that evince strong leadership. Do any one of them, and you'll be a stronger leader. Do them all, and you may become the sensation in your field that Barry is in his. Here's how to lead like the consummate pop artist, Barry Manilow:|
- Master Your Craft
Why do Barry's songs hold up for decades? Are they magically imbued with something special that no one can quite explain? Maybe. He's gifted, no doubt about it. But above all else, he works at the craft of songwriting. Hard. And often. He even tells the audience that his goal in life was to be a songwriter, not a performer. Songs as good as "Daybreak," "Copacabana" and "Could It Be Magic" don't write themselves.
He does mention that one song came to him fully formed in a dream. Paul McCartney has said the same thing about "Yesterday." But although Barry and Paul are both supremely talented writers, they also focus like lasers on the craft of songwriting, and they never stop working on it. It's also worth noting that Barry shares the writing credits for all of the above songs with other people.
Lead Like Barry. Master the skill at the heart of your work.
- Bring Your Work To Life
Barry Manilow is just as powerful a performer as he is a songwriter. He brings his A game night after night. It can't be easy singing the same songs for almost fifty years, but he still gives them his all. Robert McKee says that screenwriting at its best follows a rule created by the performing arts: "Save the best for last." That's Manilow in concert. Each song is structured to build to an emotional climax, and the show itself is structured that way too.
Lead Like Barry. Bring your work to life.
- Remember That Your Work Isn't About You
What's astonishing about Manilow's performing acumen is that singing and playing music is an anxiety-laden experience for him. Consider this recent exchange he had with Rob Tannenbaum in The New York Times: “Audiences in your shows are always giddy. When you perform, are you also having a good time?"
"I never have a good time. I’m working. I kind of bleed up there, night after night, because in order to do these songs, I’ve got to find it in my stomach. Will I be having a good time like they are? No." You wouldn't know this by watching him, however. Whatever self-doubts and agita he may have on stage, he keeps it all well hidden. As well he should. We've paid a lot of money to be there. How entertaining would it be if after every song he said, "Man, I'm really nervous up here"?
Lead Like Barry. Know that your work is about serving others, not yourself.
- Thank The People Who Help You
Throughout his two-hour show, Manilow constantly thanks the audience. He tells us that he owes his success to our support. He expresses gratitude and humility for having friends like us all over the world. He sincerely utters those two magic words that are too often said without feeling or meaning: "Thank you." How often do you thank the people who've helped you become the success you are? Does your gratitude come from the heart? In a previous column here, I talked about how making a regular practice of writing unsolicited recommendations on LinkedIn is a simple way to thank the people who have enriched your life. It takes no more than six minutes but makes a big difference. In another column, I explained how to reclaim the lost art of handwritten thank-you notes.
Lead Like Barry. Be grateful, and not only in your heart. In your actions, too.
- Don't Take Yourself So Seriously
Although there is a healthy dose of self-promotion in his shows, Barry Manilow in concert is not an egotist. He makes self-deprecating jokes throughout. Not a lot, but enough to let us know he doesn't take himself too seriously. For example, he displays the cover of his first album and then says, "I look like Taylor Swift on a bad hair day." He jokes about his sex appeal and the size of his nose. It's honest and refreshing and makes him relatable.
Lead Like Barry. Disarm your critics by taking yourself down a few pegs from time to time.
|August 5, 2019 ||New York Times||"Barry Manilow Just Wanted to Write the Songs. He’s Still Singing Them. Performing, in this case on Broadway, is a big chunk of the 76-year-old musician’s life, but he finds it torture (Not that anyone would be able to tell)." By Rob Tannenbaum|
|“What if we did ‘I Write the Songs’ in E?” Barry Manilow asked. He was rehearsing, layered in black, in a nearly empty Lunt-Fontanne Theater in Midtown Manhattan, preparing for his fifth Broadway run since 1977, a hit-packed show called “Manilow Broadway.” The goal was to ease a transition from “Somewhere in the Night” to the Grammy-winning “Songs.” His longtime music director, Ron Walters Jr., cued the band in the new key. “That’s not bad,” Manilow said after hearing a few bars, meaning it wasn’t great either. They tried E flat. They tried F. Manilow’s manner was unhurried, even though -- and this seems like it should cause some urgency -- the show was opening in two days and seven hours.|
Manilow, who turned 76 this summer, walked gingerly offstage for a break, and a little later, he and the band worked on the introduction to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Memory,” a hit for Manilow in 1982. The trumpeter Charlie Peterson began the song with a solo, but it was too demure for Manilow’s taste. He asked Peterson to try again, with more drama: “Make us look at you,” he instructed, his Brooklyn accent apparent.
Manilow is one of the last holdovers from the pre-rock era, a time when “Make us look at you” was the prime directive. He is the Prince of Pizazz, a man who works, unabashedly, in the spirit of a showbiz trouper, from his self-deprecating quips to his committed delivery of songs about adult romance. He has a Grammy, a Tony, an Emmy and an Oscar nomination. “I’m like Starbucks,” he told CNN’s Larry King in 2002. “You can’t get away from me.”
In a typical Manilow arrangement, there are dramatic notes he holds at the top of his vocal range, and at the end, an upward modulation for variety, drama and catharsis. His music, with its antiquated use of grand melodies and crescendos, has a higher schmaltz content than a good chopped liver.
From his debut album in 1973 to 1981, when he had nine Top 10 singles on the pop charts, and, more important, 12 No. 1 hits in the mellow Adult Contemporary radio format, he was always at odds with pop culture. He was not just knocked but pilloried by music critics, including those at The New York Times, who wrote him off as schlock. With his feathered hair and sparkling jumpsuits, Manilow, a few crucial years older than baby boomers, is the least-rock ’n’ roll singer to grow up in the rock era.
In retrospect, schlock was often a heteronormative code word used to dismiss gay performers as lightweight or insincere. Manilow came out in 2017 and said he’d been in a relationship with his manager, Garry Kief, since they met in 1978. (They married in 2014.) Some fans were not surprised -- a photo on the cover of his 1977 album “Live” was a pretty strong hint of his sexuality -- and others mocked the idea that he’d ever fooled anyone.
Years later, we’ve learned to discern great schlock from awful schlock. Manilow has recorded plenty of both: “Could It Be Magic,” “Looks Like We Made It,” “Ready to Take a Chance Again,” and “Tryin’ to Get the Feeling Again” in the former category; “Can’t Smile Without You” and “Weekend in New England” in the latter, and “I Write the Songs” and “Mandy” in both.
“I find it really heartwarming when people don’t back away from lush melodies and positive expressions,” said the cabaret upstart Bridget Everett, a lifelong fan who performed a tribute to Manilow at 54 Below in 2012. “There’s a lot of hope in his songs. They spark a feeling that everything’s going to be all right.”
Even nonfans admit that his music has adhesive properties. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails once complained, “I had 'Copacabana' stuck in my head for a full year.”
The day after rehearsal, Manilow sat in the back room of Sid Gold’s Request Room, a piano karaoke bar in Chelsea, took frequent hits on a white vape pen, and explained why he was making last-minute changes to his songs: “I’m nuts,” he said simply. His voice has grown huskier, but up close, his face is as smooth as an ironed sheet.
Many current pop singers leave him baffled and in despair. “I mean, some artists these days, they just stop at the end of the song,” he said. “I’ve never done that. I like big endings.”
He explained why he was tinkering with “Memory,” which he referred to as from “the dreadful show 'Cats.'” “I didn’t record it the way Andrew wrote it. I gave it three key changes and built it, and changed some melody notes too. When I got to the end, it was huge.” How did Lloyd Webber feel about the liberties? “He hated it. My God, he hated it,” he said with a laugh.
Manilow was born Barry Alan Pincus, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which, in his Broadway show, he refers to as a slum. He said his mother, Edna Manilow, was 19 when he was born, and he believes she married his father, Harold Kelliher, an Irish truck driver for the Schaefer brewery, only to avoid public shame. She made Harold take his uncle’s name, the more Jewish-sounding Pincus, though he went back to Kelliher after they divorced. Barry lived with his Russian immigrant grandparents Joseph and Esther while Edna worked as a secretary.
He knew his father mostly by Edna’s nickname for him: Harold the Monster. Edna’s second husband was Willie Murphy, another Schaefer driver. At 13, Barry moved in with them to an environment that helped spark his musical awakening. Murphy had an impressive array of albums: Broadway scores, classical music, jazz titans and great arrangers. Manilow learned to play the accordion, and then a cheap spinet piano.
Performing was the part of music that least interested him. When Edna took him to a Broadway musical, he stared at the orchestra, not the actors. When he heard the Beatles, he listened for what the producer George Martin was doing. He idolized not stars, but arrangers, like George Gershwin and Nelson Riddle.
For three years, in his 20s, he wrote commercial jingles, which was great training: If you can pack a hook into a 30-second ad, imagine what you can do with a three-minute song. To please his mother, who had a history of alcohol problems, he overcame his reluctance and began to perform. He became Bette Midler’s pianist, music director and producer, and began singing his own songs in her show, not because he liked what he called the “pear-shaped tones” in his singing, but so the songs would be heard.
And then, disaster struck: Clive Davis, the head of Arista Records, offered him a contract. “I wasn’t really excited about it,” he said. “I know it sounds crazy, but I didn’t want to be a singer. I was on my way to becoming Nelson Riddle. I signed and said, well, it’ll never work.”
For his second Arista album, Davis brought him “Brandy,” a minor British hit that Manilow first hated (“I fought Clive constantly because I didn’t want to do outside material”), then transformed into “Mandy,” a career-launching hit. He and Davis reached a bankable compromise: Each album, Davis could bring in two songs he wanted Manilow to record. “And those two songs were the hits,” the singer says with a rueful chuckle. “Clive pushed my career into Top 40 radio, and everything went haywire.”
Though he’d never paid attention to pop music, he was suddenly its human incarnation. “When I found myself on the radio next to ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ and ‘Boogie Oogie Oogie,’ I was humiliated. Believe it or not, I was hoping it would stop,” he said.
Rob Tannenbaum (RT): Did you ever think about walking away from it?
Barry Manilow (BM): Every night.
RT: Would you have been happier playing piano in a jazz group?
BM: Happier? I like the house and the Range Rover. I love the way I live.
RT: You did network TV specials, and that made you an even bigger star. Why do that?
BM: They offered it to me! Did I enjoy performing on them? No. It’s my least favorite thing to do.
RT: Is there a younger singer who performs in the same style you do, who’s an heir to your music?
BM: I can’t find them. [Michael] Bublé is close. But there’s no witty lyrics anymore, or moving lyrics. There’s a lot of anger and a lot of great rhythm, and I like that. But no melody or lyrics anymore.
RT: The history of the last 100 years of music is the transition from melody to rhythm, isn’t it?
BM: That’s it. That’s what I’m fighting all the time. So I went back to my Gerry Mulligan records.
RT: Do you ever think about retirement?
BM: Listen, I’m as old as the [expletive] hills, but I can still hit an F natural. I think I’ll be able to keep going. But how long can this last, for God’s sake?
RT: Audiences in your shows are always giddy. When you perform, are you also having a good time?
BM: I never have a good time. I’m working. I kind of bleed up there, night after night, because in order to do these songs, I’ve got to find it in my stomach. Will I be having a good time like they are? No.
It’s a mistake to think of Manilow, who left New York for California in 1978 and now lives on a 64-acre estate in Palm Springs, as anything but a New Yorker -- specifically, a Brooklyn kid who grew up poor. “Don’t pick a fight with me. I learned from the best -- my mother,” he said, adding, “I’m pretty hard, and the older I get, the harder I get. I’m kind of cynical, and there’s more anger in me than I ever knew.”
Before he met Kief, he said, he “never even thought about whether I was gay.” In his early twenties he was married, for a little over a year, to his high school girlfriend, Susan Deixler. “As you get older, I met people and started to see people, and liked it,” he said vaguely. “That was that.”
In a 1990 Rolling Stone profile, Manilow declared that he was living with Linda Allen, a Hollywood set designer, about whom he wrote “A Linda Song.” Whether Allen was a sham relationship for PR purposes or he dated her while also being with Kief, he won’t say. “Don’t go too far into this,” he warned. “This is too personal for me.”
When he came out, it put him back into a public spotlight he’d evaded for decades. In the 1980s, Top 40 radio became more modern, and Manilow stopped striving for hits. For many years, he’s recorded themed albums that look back to previous eras or bygone styles, including a “duets” album with 11 singers, all of them now dead. His 2017 album “This Is My Town: Songs of New York” included six new songs he wrote or co-wrote, but many fans would like a new album with nothing but new songs. “I’m in the middle of recording one,” he said. “Just give me a minute.”
Other fans want the comfort of his old songs. Manilow’s distinguishing talent as a singer arises from a quality more often ascribed to actors: commitment. He doesn’t sing with irony or emotional distance. He wants pop songs to feel like arias, grand and overstated.
“'Mandy' was a good vocal because it was so honest and vulnerable,” he said. “I’m dead serious about the songs. I mean it. Onstage, I’m always making up my imaginary partners.” In order to be committed to his songs live, he has to re-experience the emotions in real time. “I surprise myself with the stories I make up in my head while I’m singing,” he said.
When “Manilow Broadway” opened in late July (it closes Aug. 17), he no longer moved gingerly — he even threw in a few hip thrusts for comic effect. His two-hour performance included a few dance steps and some snappy one-liners, mostly about himself. He has made himself a one-man TV variety show.
Manilow sang more than 30 songs, some in a medley, because if he sang all his hits at full length, the show would end at four in the morning. In a grand showbiz tradition, he did a boffo job of seeming to enjoy himself. And he played “I Write the Songs” in its original key: F major.
|August 3, 2019 ||NiteLife Exchange||"Manilow Broadway - A Pure Delight - Delivers the Goods in a Big Way" by Michael Barbieri|
|A joyous spectacle! Hit after hit! Songs you know and love! Barry Manilow has begun a residency at New York’s Lunt-Fontanne Theatre and this show delivers the goods! Whether you’re a bona fide “Fanilow,” or simply a more casual listener who’s enjoyed Manilow’s music over the years, you owe it to yourself to see him perform his best-known songs in his newest stage act, Manilow Broadway!|
For the few of you who may not be up on their pop music lore, Barry Manilow is one of the most successful artists in history. He’s a singer-songwriter, musician, arranger and producer whose career has spanned more than 50 years. Born in Brooklyn and educated at Juilliard, he first made his mark writing commercial jingles, playing auditions, and even entertaining in piano bars. In 1974, his smash hit, “Mandy,” reached number 1 on the U.S. charts and was certified a Gold Record. Since then, he’s sold more than 80 million records worldwide and his live shows continue to sell out everywhere. I’ve seen several of Mr. Manilow’s live performances and his shows are always fun, theatrical, musical love affairs between him and his audiences. This show was certainly no different and exceeded even my expectations!
But first a little bad news -- only a tiny bit. At the top of the show, the sound balance was terribly off. The band was over-amplified, thus overpowering Manilow’s vocal completely. Luckily, the problem was rectified within about four songs and from then on, the show was pure delight! At age 76, the singer looked and sounded fantastic and his songs, while warmly nostalgic, still sounded as fresh as when they were released!
Despite the sound glitch, Manilow’s opening number, the aptly chosen “New York City Rhythm,” was a knockout! The singer strutted the stage and worked the crowd. His high-energy tune, complete with its salsa-inspired piano break, put us all in the perfect mood for the show to come. He was happy to be home and we were happy to have him back!
After lamenting the lack of melody in today’s pop music, he performed some of his own enduring melodies, including “Daybreak,” “Looks Like We Made It” and “Can’t Smile Without You.” His clear, strong vocals, including his signature modulations, were pitch perfect. “Can’t Smile Without You” even featured a cute video with “follow the bouncing emoji” sing-along lyrics.
New York City itself played an integral part in this show. Manilow spoke of his childhood in Brooklyn and of his grandfather, who recognized young Barry’s musical abilities early on. His rendition of “This One’s for You,” written with Marty Panzer, was dedicated to his grandfather and accompanied by grainy, black and white footage of an old man bringing his grandson into the big city. The final onscreen image -- an actual portrait of young Barry with his grandfather -- was extremely moving. This segment of the show served as the perfect introduction to a couple of selections from Manilow’s recent album “This Is My Town: Songs of New York.” The title song, written with Bruce Sussman, had an irresistible, jaunty Broadway feel to it. A special accompanying 3-D film took us on a soaring aerial tour of NYC, including an image of Times Square where Barry himself was on every billboard! His cover of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s “On Broadway” was accompanied by vintage photos of a dirtier, seedier 42nd Street, while strains of his own “New York City Rhythm” were interpolated into the arrangement, adding subtle nuances.
Then there were the undeniable mega-hits. “Even Now” began quietly and became a rousing showstopper that brought the crowd to its feet! “Weekend in New England” was as moving and powerful as ever and “It’s a Miracle” had the audience up and dancing in the aisles! Manilow commanded the stage with his energetic cover of The Four Seasons’ “Let’s Hang On” and his version of “Memory,” from Broadway’s Cats, soared, transforming the song into a pop music power ballad!
Possibly my favorite Manilow classic of the evening was “Could It Be Magic.” Based on Chopin’s Prelude in C Minor, he again began quietly and sang the song as originally recorded. He then spoke of Donna Summer’s dance version of the tune, which he said he’d hated... until it reached Number 3 on the Dance charts! So what was there to do but come out from behind the piano and perform the disco version, singing and dancing along with his phenomenal backup vocalists Kye Brackett, Sharon Hendrix and Melanie Taylor. Not only did his vocals remain on point, but he handled the choreography like a pro! At the end of the number, he stated “Not bad for a 76 year old guy!” Definitely! I have no idea where he gets the energy, but I want the secret!
We got a medley of hits that included “The Old Songs,” “Bandstand Boogie,” “Tryin’ To Get The Feeling Again,” “Ready to Take a Chance Again” and others. A big surprise, for me, was the inclusion of a video of Manilow performing “Mandy” on “The Midnight Special” television show in 1975. What made the moment truly lovely was that, as he sang it, you could just hear our audience singing softly along with the clip. And by the time we reached “I Write the Songs” and “Copacabana,” the evening became a big party. The show felt like a gift from Barry to all of us!
As pop music residencies go, this one is rather short-lived. Performances run only until August 17th. But if you enjoy Barry Manilow’s music, particularly if you’ve never seen him perform live, Manilow Broadway is definitely a show to catch! And to borrow a phrase from a well-known Broadway musical, Barry, it’s so nice to have you back where you belong!
For tickets to Manilow Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, click here. For more information, go to www.barrymanilow.com.
|August 2, 2019 ||Playbill.com||"Barry Manilow Visits Fiddler on The Roof Off-Broadway: The Grammy Award winner, who can be seen onstage in Manilow Broadway, visited the cast backstage August 1" by Marc J. Franklin|
|The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene’s production of Fiddler on the Roof received a special visit August 1 when Grammy winner Barry Manilow stopped backstage to greet members of the company. The hit revival recently celebrated its one-year anniversary Off-Broadway after opening at the Museum of Jewish Heritage July 15, 2018.|
Fiddler is presented in Yiddish with English and Russian supertitles. The production, which marks the first time the Yiddish version of the musical has been staged since its world premiere in Israel more than 50 years ago, stars Steven Skybell as Tevye, Jennifer Babiak as his wife Golde, and Emmy nominee and Broadway veteran Jackie Hoffman as matchmaker Yente.
The creative team features Tony-winning set designer Beowulf Boritt, Tony-winning costume designer Ann Hould-Ward, choreographer Stas Kmiec, Tony-nominated sound designer Dan Moses Schreier, and Tony-winning lighting designer Peter Kaczorowski. Casting is by Jamibeth Margolis, C.S.A, and Zalmen Mlotek is NYTF's artistic director.
Manilow can currently be seen onstage at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in Manilow Broadway, marking his return to the Broadway stage following an engagement in 2013. Manilow Broadway is scheduled to play a limited run through August 17.
Steven Skybell and Jennifer Babiak with Barry Manilow
Jackie Hoffman with Barry Manilow
'Fiddler On The Roof' Cast with Barry Manilow
|August 2, 2019 ||Times-Union||"Learning to love Manilow: Affection for crooner's entirely uncynical songs awakened by trip to Broadway show in company of a super-fan" by Amy Biancolli|
|If you had asked me before Saturday night if I'm a Barry Manilow fan, I would have laughed and referred you to my sister Betsy. She's the fan. She's the one who's loved the man madly since age 6 or 7 and knows every single lyric to every single song. Maybe, if you'd pressed me, I might have admitted to hearing the guy on Top 40 radio as a kid. (It was the 70s! What choice did I have!) Maybe I'd have confessed to getting a little weepy whenever I heard that snippet of Chopin in the opening bars of "Could It Be Magic."|
But a Fanilow? Me? Nah. That's Betsy, my dear, sweet, beautiful Betsy, who's developmentally disabled and just about the most complete human being you'll ever meet. Wise, loving and curious about the world, she's been in my life for 43 years and she's a gift to all who know her. On Wednesday she turned 53. When I was asked to help her celebrate with a trip to hear Barry at Broadway's Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, I checked the calendar, worked out a few kinks in the schedule and said yes. Yes yes yes yes yes.
[She] adores him the way she adores purple, hearts, butterflies, chocolate and rocks -- only more so, because purple, hearts, butterflies, chocolate and rocks don't sing particularly well, and they aren't particularly handsome and sexy, which Barry is and always will be to Betsy.
On the train down Saturday afternoon, we talked about him. We talked about her favorite shows on Animal Planet ... We talked about her parents... Pat, who died in 2013. Dan, who has a terminal blood cancer. His partner Margaret, who loves Betsy and comprehends her passion for Barry, came up with the idea of a birthday trip to hear him and split the cost of tickets with Dan. Before we left, he shoved a wad of cash in my hands to cover anything and everything else. The goal: for Betsy to have the time of her life. She did. So did I.
Standing at the theater marquee beforehand in head-to-toe purple, Betsy looked up at his image with a gaze bordering on rapture. Once inside, taking her seat in the mezzanine, the gaze turned tense with expectation. She'd heard Barry live a few times before, but never this close in a setting this intimate. "Are you excited? Nervous?" I asked. "I think a little bit of both," Betsy replied.
The curtain was a pulsing, brilliant violet. Good sign. Then it opened, and the man himself appeared. He [was] dynamic with a voice that belied his 76 years and a breezy showmanship that swooshed the night along. He wore sparkly suits. He sang sparkly songs. He told stories about his childhood that Betsy knew by heart. And as he cranked through his hit list, the pair of us sang along -- belting out the lyrics to "Mandy," "Looks Like We Made It," "Can't Smile Without You" and all the other exquisitely schmaltzy Barry tunes that I can no longer claim not to love. He even started in at the piano on "Could It Be Magic," then blitzed into a Donna Summer disco version in a purple suit with purple backup singers and a purple projection above.
Betsy and I sang together, whooped together, beamed and waved our arms together. I have rarely seen a human being happier than my sister on that night. I looked over and felt nothing but joy and gratitude. For her. For everything in my life that brought me to this moment with her. For, well, Manilow.
The value of any artwork is inevitably subjective; that's the beauty of it. Critics can expound on its aesthetics and pass judgement all they like, but its ultimate worth is a matter of quirk and impact. Art matters to us because it's subjective, because it's personal, because it reaches down and socks us in the gut in ways we can't explain. Watching my sister's beautiful, blissed-out face as she listened to Barry in the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, I understood at last why she loves him so. It's because his music is so transparent in its embrace of all that matters to her: Romance and melody, sincerity and love. Always love. There's no ounce of cynicism in his music or his lyrics, no apology for trading in emotions that others malign as mush.
After the concert, we started heading off to the subway when, just shy of the street corner, I stopped and looked back at the theater. A small mob had formed around the stage door. "Let's go over," I told Betsy. "Why?" she asked. But as soon as she saw the shiny black vehicle parked out front, she knew. Taking my sister by the hand, I led her through the throng. We wiggled our way a little closer, then a little closer, then a little closer still until, about three rows deep, the wall of people became impenetrable. But we could see the door. We could see the musicians and backup singers as they emerged from the door. Were Barry to emerge, we would see him, too. "We HAVE to," Betsy asserted, and I agreed.
So we waited. After about 15 minutes, I checked my phone and did the math -- still time to zip down to Penn on the 1. After 20, I thought, OK, so we'll Uber instead. After 30, I started getting antsy. At 40, I called it. "Betsy," I said. "Betsy. I'm so sorry, but we're gonna have to leave. We don't want to miss our train." "OK," she agreed, but I could see her disappointment.
"One more minute," I said. "Just one." Twenty seconds later, he appeared. "Barry! Barry!" Betsy yelled. "Barry! Barry!" I yelled. "Amy, take a photo! You need to take a photo!" "I'm trying! I'm trying!" I said, hoisting my phone over the mob's collective heads and snapping blindly.
Then the singer ducked into his limo, and whoosh, he was gone. Betsy's grin just about broke her face. "You saw him!" I told her. "You saw Barry up close!" "I did," she confirmed with a delighted, magisterial calm. Somehow, her grin grew even wider.
We checked my iPhone. Yep, got a pic — Manilow's head in profile. Woot, woot! Documentary proof! We high-fived. Buzzed on Barry, Betsy and I walked to the corner and caught our Uber to Penn, humming and singing his tunes along the way. He writes the songs that makes the whole world sing. He writes the songs, he writes the songs. OK, I give up. I'm a fan.
|August 1, 2019 ||The Daily Beast||"Barry Manilow on Broadway: 'Who Could Ask for More?' A Sea of Happy Screams and Glow Sticks" by Tim Teeman|
|Barry Manilow’s Broadway show is a feast of classic hits like “Mandy” and “Copacabana,” with the 76-year-old showman singing, groin-thrusting, and delighting his devoted fans. The screaming was abrupt and sounded painful -- was it a fight or disturbance? My eyes flicked left. No, it was just the latest outburst of elation at a Broadway concert that was more fervent church service. Believers only welcome.|
Obviously, Barry Manilow’s Broadway residency (to Aug. 17) is for fans; more than that, it is for the devoted. Along with the Playbills for the show come a pair of 3-D glasses and a glow stick. On a recent evening, the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre was quickly transformed into an undulating sea of the small green rods ... The Manilow faithful [were] ecstatic before their hero even appeared as the titles of his most famous songs flashed on a screen on the stage, peppered with memory-sparking chord and lyric flashes.
Then Manilow himself materialized in jacket with glittering appliqué, hair jetted and tufty, and the audience’s roar felt like it would launch the Lunt-Fontanne into orbit. There was no warning about not using smartphones, so people filmed and photographed Manilow as he sang and strutted, gingerly, this way and that ... [Manilow] knew who was here for him, and he was there for them too. He owned the stage as only a consummate performer can, while also being in on the joke of being Barry Manilow, “76 and still a mega-star and sex god,” he said, laughing to himself...
The Lunt-Fontanne audience yowled and whooped when he did a set of groin thrusts. When, during “Weekend in New England,” Manilow sang the “When can I touch you?” line in his series of agonized questions -- “When will our eyes meet? / When can I touch you? / When will this strong yearning end? / And when will I hold you again?” -- the outbreak of screaming was at Beatles/David Cassidy-level intensity.
[You] sense that Manilow, his music, and that promised, longed-for touch that makes fans scream, is part of an unquestioned and unbreakable bond. His voice is still strong, he can still dance with a shuffling charm. Like he said to us, not bad for 76. Some may laugh at his songs, but as his Broadway show went on, one marveled at his voice and stage presence.
Almost every song at the concert built to a moment where Manilow thrust his hands out to the audience, like a javelin throw releasing glitter dust. The songs -- many about coming through something, surviving something, triumphing, making it no matter what -- reside in the best extremes of diva tradition ... Manilow was on point, funny and charming—both downplaying his stardom and making clear he was the star, just like his compadre Barbra Streisand. Manilow knows his image, and knows the contemporary culture of mockery enough to play with it without denigrating himself.
The 3-D glasses were to be put on when Manilow sang “This Is My Town,” from his 2017 album of the same name dedicated to New York, and suddenly, via the screen behind him, we were on a harum-scarum cartoon journey through and over New York City, which included the Statue of Liberty winking at him. “Mandy” began on the screen behind also, with a tape of Manilow playing it in 1975, before the Manilow of now took over from him to thunderous cheers.
“Could It be Magic” began as he wrote it -- as a piano-based romantic ballad, before Manilow stood up from his piano stool, noting that Donna Summer made it into a disco hit, which he then promptly, and wonderfully, aped with flashing lights. We were all on our feet and in the aisles. For “Can’t Smile Without You,” the lyrics were put up on the screen to sing along with, Manilow saying how much he enjoyed the transformation of concert into mass karaoke.
[A] medley of hits followed until he sent us out into the night with -- what else? -- the glorious “Copacabana” (which he also performed at Michael Kors’ New York Fashion Week show in February). Again, there was no option but to stand and sing along to the melodramatic travails of Lola, Tony, and Rico. Who could ask for more?, indeed. To rapturous applause, Manilow bowed, waved bashfully, bowed again, and waved bashfully again. As the curtain came down, the glow sticks swayed on.
|August 1, 2019 ||New York Post||"Barry Manilow: I’ve never been a diva (unlike Faye Dunaway)" by Michael Riedel|
|Barry Manilow, back on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne for a few weeks, came onstage at Tuesday’s opening night and cracked: “You weren’t expecting Faye Dunaway, were you?” Big laughs from a crowd who knew the star had been fired days before from her Broadway-bound show for being an out-of-control diva. You’ll never hear that said about Manilow.|
He’s been an international superstar for more than 40 years and yet everyone who meets him says the same thing: Manilow is a mensch. Friends say that even now, famous and wealthy at 76, he’s still the same Barry who accompanied them on piano at auditions and who made a living scratching out jingles such as “You Deserve a Break Today” for McDonald’s. True, there are private planes, adoring fans and a very nice spread in Palm Springs, Calif., but you never hear of Manilow pulling a Faye Dunaway!