Articles and Reviews - Archives 5

November 26, 2001 The Miami Herald"Here At The Mayflower" by Howard Cohen ("For his first CD on jazz-oriented label Concord and also his first collection of originals in some 15 years, Barry Manilow has constructed an inspired concept album with each song based on the lives of the people living in the Mayflower apartment complex ... The result is akin to a Whitman's Sampler of the various styles of music Manilow has been associated with over the course of his 31 albums: pop balladry, Top 40, big band swing, jazz, Latin, dance and Broadway-styled theater pieces ... Here at the Mayflower is the finest album of Manilow's four-decade career, featuring his most precise singing and some exceptional songcraft. Manilow may not write the songs the whole world sings anymore, but with this surprisingly moving and thoroughly entertaining gem he should also finally silence his critics.")
November 25, 2001 The Dallas Morning News
(Arts & Entertainment)
"Manilow sails on 'Mayflower'" by Mario Tarradell ("Here At The Mayflower, [Barry's] 31st album, is about as high concept as the New Yorker has ever been. In fact, Mayflower manages to merge the artist's pop efforts, jazz excursions, big band outings, and Broadway-influenced work into one cohesive disc ... The record is set in the imaginary Mayflower apartments, with each song written as an observational vignette about the tenants in several units ... Mayflower examines an array of human emotions, issues and frailties, such as loneliness, restlessness, romantic betrayal, enduring love, old age, and even death ... Every tune is piano-based, with Mr. Manilow on the keyboards, and then embellished with a boatload of instruments. Horns, percussion, guitars, saxophone from Dave Koz, drums, and synthesizers [fill] the ambitious record, which [Barry] composed, produced, and arranged.")
November 23, 2001"Barry Manilow returns with US album release" ("[Barry] says Here At The Mayflower is his first new 'pop' album since Barry Manilow was released in 1989. No official UK release date for the album has been confirmed as yet ... Manilow says the 16 tracks may provide material for a musical of some kind, but addded: 'I think if it's a natural at all, it would be a revue, not a Broadway musical. I know about Broadway musicals since I've been soaking in them for the last couple of years.'")
November 21, 2001 MTV News OnlineShakira-Britney Tag Team No Match For Garth, article about new album releases making their debut on the Billboard 200: "...A bunch of notable albums will also make their first-week appearance on the albums chart, among them Paul McCartney's first album of new music in four years, Driving Rain, at #26; Sevendust's Animosity at #28; Natalie Merchant's third studio album, Motherland, at #30; Radiohead's I Might Be Wrong-Live Recordings at #44; Kittie's Spit (1999) follow-up, Oracle, at #57; Keke Wyatt's debut, Soul Sista, at #60; Barry Manilow's Here at the Mayflower at #90; and Shelby Lynn's widely-hyped Love Shelby at #109."
November 19, 2001 New York PostLiz Smith's column mentions "Here At The Mayflower" ("These songs contain human-interest stories for people of all ages, and some feel it's Barry's best work in a long career that began when he was an accompanist for Bette Midler. He is donating some of the proceeds to the September 11th Fund. We'll see Barry at Hollywood's new Kodak Theatre at the end of the year.")
November 18, 2001 Los Angeles Daily News Online"Looks like he's made it" by Fred Shuster ("With countless world tours under his belt, Barry Manilow knows exactly what makes a good venue from the viewpoints of audience and performer. Hollywood's new Kodak Theatre has both angles covered. 'I think it's beautiful. It can work for both classical and pop. The acoustics are great. It's a beautiful room, elegant and intimate. And the stage is the size of three football fields. You could stage 'Aida' and 'The Lion King' there, at the same time.' ... Here At The Mayflower, [Barry's] first effort to feature all-original Manilow material in more than 15 years, deals with the lives of a diverse group of people living in an imaginary old brick apartment house... 'It could be in any city or any neighborhood in the world. Each song brings us into a different apartment and takes a snapshot of the people living there. It's about unity, trusting the people you're with and being among a group.' You'll hear some of Manilow's hits and some tunes from the new album during his Kodak appearances (Dec. 28-31). 'I've come to a point in my career where I've got this huge catalog of songs people come to hear, so I have to figure out how much new stuff to include with the hits.'")
November 16, 2001 New York Post


"Manilow Sails in New Direction on 'Mayflower'" by Dan Aquilante ("Less pop and more adult, [Here At The Mayflower] was created 'to sound like I stood outside each apartment door and eavesdropped on people's lives,' [Barry] said. Manilow wrote most of the 16 songs. 'If you don't like this album, you don't like what I do ... 'Turn The Radio Up' [is] one of those songs that makes people feel good. I wrote that one five weeks before the World Trade Center attack, and now when I see people reacting to it, I see how it makes them feel better...
'Not What You See' [is] not a pop song. It sounds like it should have come out of a Broadway show or a cabaret. I was very nervous about putting that one on the album, but I'm glad it's there. It's the song everybody asks about and wants to talk about. If I've learned anything during my years on the planet, it's nothing is as it seems. All of your problems, everything you do all day long, are rarely about what you're doing; it's usually about something deeper - something more profound...'")
[ Article also at includes photo of Barry ]
November 14, 2001 Barnes and NobleHere At The Mayflower Review by David Cohen: "Following a number of recordings of cover songs, Barry Manilow returns with Here at the Mayflower, his first album of all-new material in a decade. The break seems to have stoked Manilow's creative fires, as he uses the metaphor of an urban apartment house and its varied inhabitants as the springboard for his most heartfelt work in many years. The Brooklyn-born showman utilizes every musical shading in his vast palette on this thoroughly delightful recording. The ear-grabbing 'Turn the Radio Up' is the sort of infectious pop that first turned the former Barry Alan Pincus into a nonstop hit machine; 'The Night Tito Played,' an homage to the late salsa king Tito Puente, is hip-shakingly irresistible; the lovely 'Border Train' is a sweet-sad sojourn in a minor key; and 'Talk to Me' is the kind of melancholy ballad that no one does better than Manilow. A concept album populated with touching stories and characters, Mayflower should add to Manilow's already impressive list of 38 Top 40 hits and 50 million records sold. You'll want to visit with Barry and these folks as often as possible."
November 10, 2001 Billboard MagazineIssue features full-page ad on page 13: Barry's Back! NEW ERA, NEW LABEL, NEW ALBUM... Barry Manilow is back with the first recording to feature all original Manilow songs in over 15 years! For his debut release on Concord Records, Here At The Mayflower, Barry has reunited with the songwriting greats with whom he co-wrote such hits as "Could It Be Magic," "Even Now," "It's A Miracle," "This One's For You," and "Copacabana." With these brand new collaborations Barry Manilow has created one of the most exciting projects of his career!
November 5, 2001 Christian Science Monitor"New star rises in Hollywood", article primarily about The Kodak Theatre at Hollywood and Highland (in Hollywood, California) but includes Barry's comments at the unveiling of the theatre during first sound check ("'What impresses me most is that I can see the eyes of everyone in the audience,' said singer Barry Manilow, who was trotted out to belt out piano ballads to show off acoustics.")
October 31, 2001 L.A. Times"Barry's Fabulous, First Kodak Moment" by Louise Roug and Gina Piccalo ("Wearing a black windbreaker, black pants and a white dress shirt, [Barry Manilow] said the sound was good, and the crowd of a few dozen construction workers and a handful of fans agreed. After he obliged them by playing the opening bars of his 1978 hit song ('Copacabana'), they rewarded him with an impromptu, undulating wave. Manilow, accompanying himself on piano, sang a 20-minute medley to promote 'Here At The Mayflower,' his new disc. [Barry] said of his new material, 'I've gone to the well, and it's not dry yet.' Manilow fans can look forward to Dec. [28] when he returns with the first of four shows at which, he promised, audiences will 'feel better leaving than coming in.'")
October 30, 2001 Yahoo! Daily NewsPhoto and caption by REUTERS/Rose Prouser: "Singer Barry Manilow is interviewed on stage after he performed the first sound check by an artist at the new Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, October 30, 2001."
October 30, 2001 Yahoo! Daily NewsPhoto and caption by REUTERS/Rose Prouser: "Singer Barry Manilow sings his song 'One Voice' during the first sound check [at] the new Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, October 30, 2001."
October 30, 2001 Yahoo! Daily NewsPhoto and caption by REUTERS/Rose Prouser: "Singer Barry Manilow poses prior to performing the first sound check [at] the new Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, October 30, 2001."
October 25, 2001 Newcastle Evening Chronicle"It'll Be Magic!" ("Could it be magic? It promises to be when Barry Manilow returns to the North East for a spectacular show next year ... the veteran crooner will be back at Newcastle's Telewest Arena in May, more than two years since he last wowed fans at the venue ... Manilow himself denies he has fans, choosing to call them 'friends' ... He even has more fan clubs than Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey put together ... Tickets are available [at] 0870 707 8000, on the web, at the arena and Newcastle City Hall box offices and Blackwells bookshop in Newcastle.")
October 9, 2001 The Desert Sun
(Palm Springs)
"McCallum benefit still ringing" by Bruce Fessier, about the McCallum Theatre's "Let Freedom Ring" benefit for the United Way's September 11th Fund ("Barry put on the most dazzling segment of a concert filled with a Broadway season of showstoppers ... [Artists Peter Marshall, Susan Anton, Hal Linden, Jack Jones, Howard Keel, Suzanne Somers and more] set the stage for Barry. The amplification went up and his renditions of his positive anthems, 'Daybreak,' 'We Made It Through The Rain' and 'One Voice' went up in key changes to build excitement. But even that was just a prelude for his bigger-than-life production number, 'Let Freedom Ring.' He pulled out all the stops to make it spectacular. The lights went up, a 94-voice choir surrounded the theater and a giant flag was unfurled as Barry kept singing.").
October 4, 2001 All About Jazz
(Jazz Magazine and Resource)
"November 5th: Barry Manilow 'Accentuate(s) The Positive' In Carnegie Hall Johnny Mercer Tribute To Benefit Leukemia Research" ("The 12th Annual Lauri Strauss Leukemia Foundation Gala Concert and Reception [will] feature Barry Manilow, plus the world-renowned Skitch Henderson conducting the New York Pops, plus a long list of special guest stars ... With the gracious support of the Mercer Foundation and many others, this year's concert, featuring Barry Manilow, will also pay tribute to the music of Johnny Mercer ... Gala proceeds will benefit The Lauri Strauss Leukemia Foundation Research Grants at major cancer research centers selected by the foundation's medical advisory board.")

For more information:

October 3, 2001 The Desert Sun
(Palm Springs)
"Valley musical resources bridge an ethereal plane" by Bruce Fessier, article includes Barry's thoughts behind the Let Freedom Ring concert to benefit victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks (October 6, McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, CA) ("'It is surreal living in Palm Springs,' [Barry] said on a break from working on an album due for release in November. 'Something should have changed. Nothing changes in Palm Springs. It's still beautiful, quiet and peaceful. But there is a heaviness in everyone's heart. I can just feel it when I walk around. We're very fortunate to live in such beauty ... My best buddy and songwriting partner, Bruce Sussman, lives on 23rd Street, so he saw the whole thing and whenever I speak to him or anybody I know there, they cry. They tell me if you actually go to the World Trade Center, it changes you forever. I can just imagine what it must be like living there day after day and being reminded of it. I spoke with (Bruce) last night and his voice has changed. It's like (the voice of) this very somber person. Whenever I think of it, my heart sinks to my feet. But, if I was surrounded by it all day long, I know it would be different.'").
October 2, 2001 Contemporary JazzNews: "Barry Manilow has signed a new record deal with Concord Records. Manilow's first CD will be Here At The Mayflower due out November 6."
October 1, 2001 Clear Channel Entertainment"Barry Manilow Tour News: Winter Tour Aimed At Raising The Spirit Of The Nation" ("'The horror that we have experienced brings home to me how important every day is and how important loving one another is. My thoughts and prayers continually go out to the victims and their families,' Barry says. 'Maybe my tour will be of service to our national psyche. Singing 'Daybreak' and 'I Made It Through The Rain' seems trivial at first glance, but maybe by uplifting spirits each night, I can help. It's really the only thing I know how to do during this time of crisis.'")
October 2001 Concord Records
(What's New Section)
Reports that the December issue of Esquire Magazine will "contain a feature on Barry Manilow in their 'What I've Learned' section. It should hit the stands in mid-November."
September 28, 2001 LiveDaily"Barry Manilow plots theater run behind new album" by Jon Zahlaway, announces Barry's tour plans "for an extensive North American tour that is expected to stretch well into next year ... Members of the Barry Manilow International Fan Club will have a shot at tickets prior to the public on-sale dates, according to the club's official website." Article also notes "Manilow's first collection of new material in more than a decade, 'Here at the Mayflower,' is due on Nov. 13, and marks the singer's first release for Concord Records."
September 26, 2001 POLLSTAR - The Concert Hotwire"Barry Manilow Still Pops" - tour announcement ("Barry Manilow is looking ahead to a winter tour. He'll perform mostly multi-night shows in each of the 11 cities on the itinerary - staging three shows on many stops ... The tour will take Manilow around the States from December 13 through February 22. Tickets are not available yet to the general public but a fan club Internet pre-sale is under way through Ticketmaster and details are available on the Web site...")
September 21, 2001 Concord Records


Yellow Dog Jazz Report

"Barry Manilow Signs New Contract with Indie Concord Records: New CD Represents First Release of Original Material in Over 10 Years" and "Barry Manilow Inks With Concord: A Step In Label's Plans to Expand Beyond Jazz" ("'We did the deal over dinner, ' Manilow says. 'Hal Gaba (Concord Chairman), Glen Barros (Concord President), John Burk (Concord Exec VP) and I spent ten minutes talking about a deal and three hours talking about music. Once I realized they knew Gerry Mulligan they could have offered me 38 cents and I would have signed.' Hal Gaba said, 'Barry is a world-class artist and one of the great American songwriters. We're honored that he has joined our label.' ... Here At The Mayflower is a project that Manilow has been working on for almost twenty years. 'The Mayflower apartment building could be in any city or any neighborhood in the world,' Manilow said. 'Each song brings us into a different apartment and takes a snapshot of the people living there.' This is the first album that enables Manilow to arrange for and play every instrument on every song. 'I was able to use my arranging chops because of these miraculous new computer techniques. We sweetened my sequences with a small string and horn section, but other than the fabulous Ken Berry on guitar and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, I was able to play everything. What a ball I had,' enthused Manilow ... As part of his new deal, Manilow also joins Concord as a producer, overseeing new projects for artists both inside and outside the Concord roster.")
September 21, 2001"Manilow Bolts Arista For Concord" by Melinda Newman, reports that Barry has "signed a new recording contract with Concord Records ... Manilow says he began considering Concord more than a year ago as Arista was in transition... 'The whole thing with my dear friend Clive happened overnight ... I think all of us at Arista found ourselves in limbo for a couple of months ... Usually the record people [talk] about current singles, who's hot, who's bombing, who's selling,' says Manilow, 'I was talking to [Concord] about our favorite jazz tunes and musicians and arrangements ... I didn't know where Clive was going or where Antonio [Reid] was taking [Arista] ... I just knew I wanted more of this.' ... Barry's debut for Concord, Here At The Mayflower, is due November 13 ... [The] concept album's songs illustrate the lives of people who live in an imaginary apartment building ... Two separate tracks will be worked to U.S. adult contemporary and jazz radio stations, according to [Concord].".
September 13, 2001 Syracuse Post-StandardArticle by David L. Shaw about Mark Morabito, whose "beautiful wife of nearly eight years, Laura Lee, died Tuesday (September 11)... One of their best dates in the courtship [was] attending a Barry Manilow concert in Phoenix ... They met in March. Got engaged in July and were married in November in Laura's hometown of Clark's Summit, PA ... 'We spent five great years in Chicago,' [Mark] said. Laura was promoted to national sales manager and had to relocate to Boston. 'We couldn't have been happier.' Then came Tuesday (September 11, 2001)... 'I saw a clip of an airplane hitting the World Trade Center ... I saw it on television and simply couldn't believe what I was seeing. That the person I love was on that plane ... You had to know her. She was an angel to me.'"
September 9, 2001 Republican- American"Barry Manilow At Carnegie Hall In Mercer Tribute". Reports that Barry will be appearing at "Carnegie Hall's most exciting benefit concert of the year, the 12th annual Lauri Strauss Leukemia Foundation Gala Concert and Reception, 'Accentuate The Positive' [which] will feature Barry Manilow, plus Litchfield County's Skitch Henderson conducting The New York Pops."
August 26, 2001 Suburban Chicago News"Poetry set to music, in care of an un-cool guy named Barry" by Dave Gathman ("If you want to bathe luxuriantly in two hours of world-class song lyrics, [drive] to the Mercury Theatre in Chicago and see a musical revue named Could It Be Magic? the Barry Manilow Songbook. You won't see Manilow himself, unless he happens to be watching from the wings as he was last Saturday. But he produces the show. Five gifted actors (Debra Byrd, E. Faye Butler, Keely Vasquez, Kye Brackett, Scott Alan Jones) sing 42 songs made famous by this critically uncool but oh-so-professional master of the song that isn't afraid to speak from its heart and follow the basic formula - hook, chorus, rhyme, melody - that songwriters have been making work since Irving Berlin was a gream in his grandma's eye ... Manilow didn't write all, or even most, of these lyrics. In fact, as the actors perform each song, the names of the people who wrote it light up at the side of the stage ... While critics were dismissing Manilow as a corny lightweight, [Manilow] has been a one-man preserver of the traditional way of putting feeling and meaning into a piece of music."
August 2001 Illinois Entertainer"Could It Be Magic? The Barry Manilow Songbook" by John Everson ("Barry Manilow was certainly a prolific and powerful force in popular music in the '70s, and Could It Be Magic? brings the cream of his crop to the stage ... The focus here isn't on narrative theatrics, but on celebrating the work of the songwriters ... The stars of this show are certainly the songs, but the singer/actors do a fine job of keeping things in motion ... This production has a more intimate, homegrown feel, which really gives the songs some room to breathe. I wouldn't say this one is 'strictly for Manilow fans.' I don't consider myself a Manilow fan, but once the show settled into its rhythm, I found it an enjoyable ride through memory and emotion.")")
August 10, 2001 Chicago TribuneRock the River rolls downstream: Growing downtown festival now docks in Chinatown, too - 4th Annual Rock the River Festival in Chicago "[will] showcase excerpts from popular local stage shows including 'Could It Be Magic? The Barry Manilow Songbook'..." on the Rockin' and Reelin' Stage.
August 3,
Playbill Online"Manilow's Harmony Lives: Musical May Play Chicago" by Robert Simonson, reports that "Harmony" may be "resurfacing in Chicago" ("Manilow, while promoting 'Could It Be Magic?', a revue of his music which recently opened at Chicago's Mercury Theater, said during a television interview that he was trying to bring 'Harmony' to the Goodman Theatre in Chicago...").
Summer/Fall 2001 Yamaha Corporation of America"Manilow A Hit At Dodger Stadium": "Play Ball!" and "Batter Up!" are phrases that wouldn't normally come to mind in connection with a Yamaha Clavinova digital piano. That is, unless you happened to catch Yamaha artist Barry Manilow's performance of the National Anthem on opening day at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Manilow accompanied himself on a CVP103 at home plate before thousands of cheering fans. A spectacular display of fireworks and hundreds of white doves released over the field capped the performance. The Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers could not have asked for a more exciting opener to the 2001 season. The Clavinova was provided by Leigh Moore, manager of commercial rentals and special events at Keyboard Concepts in Van Nuys, CA. "Andrea Long, the Dodgers' sales and marketing administrative assistant, called me to request a digital piano with a nice piano sound and feel," says Moore. "They were especially interested in getting a cost-effective keyboard they could move quickly and easily. The CVP103 fit the bill perfectly, and Barry thought it was a lot of fun to play, too." The talented performer/composer/ arranger/producer played and sang with the panache and passion that once prompted Rolling Stone magazine to call him "a giant among entertainers� most probably, he is the showman of our generation." "It was a wonderful treat for the 56,000 fans in attendance," exulted Dodgers Director of Sales & Marketing Sergio Del Prado. "It was the perfect touch to a great opening day." "He was great," says Bob Chacon of Simi Valley, who took a day off work to attend the event. "When the birds were flying, I misted up." Manilow, who hails from Brooklyn, NY, performed his masterful rendition of the National Anthem wearing a bright blue Brooklyn Dodgers jacket...
June 28, 2001 Chicago Tribune"Measuring shows' progress" by Chris Jones, mentions "Could It Be Magic?" is expected to be at the Mercury Theater "through the end of August or thereabouts" and "Because Susan Weaving of the William Morris agency was spotted at the opening night party, you can be sure that the Chicago run will not be the end of this show. There are already plans for a tour."
June 27, 2001 Chicago TribuneChicago Tribune - Letters to the Editor: Missed the magic?
PHOENIX-I read Richard Christiansen's review of the musical revue "Could It Be Magic?" ("'Could It Be Magic?' Not a chance", Chicago Tribune, June 18, Tempo) with dismay. I saw the opening night performance on June 17 while on vacation in Chicago. It did not appear that the audience shared many of Mr. Christiansen's views. I realize the easiest review to write is negative but to be fair to the theater-going public and the performers who give so much effort, the reviewer should attempt to set aside his personal bias. Clearly not a Manilow fan, he seemed predisposed to find fault with every part of the production. Certainly I acknowledge some songs are stronger than others. We all feel that way about every show we see and every CD we hear.

I agree that amplification is excessive in such a small theater, although my seat never did shake as reported. However the extended skit which your critic disliked contained a beautiful performance of "When October Goes" by E. Faye Butler, which was breathtaking. Also in that segment, why no acknowledgment of the wonderful vocals by Ron Walters Jr. on "Paradise Cafe"? The audience seemed to enjoy the entire bar skit very much! But I guess whether or not people enjoy a show is irrelevant.

Finally, I was appalled to see the talents and performances of Debra Byrd and E. Faye Butler dismissed as "Big Mama personae." Not being familiar with Mr. Christiansen's reviews, I am uncertain if this review is typical. It seems to be all or nothing. Rereading it, I see not one mention of something he liked. Not one performance worthy of positive note? It seems very calculated and small-minded. -- Sheree Setzer

June 18, 2001 Liberty Suburban Chicago Newspapers"'Could It Be Magic?' If it's the 'Barry Manilow Songbook,' the answer is absolutely!" by Catey Sullivan, Arts editor
Speaking on a radio show Sunday, singer/actor E. Faye Butler insisted to an audibly skeptical host that her current show involved a hip-hop version of the Barry Manilow hit "Could it Be Magic?"

Hip-hop Barry Manilow? Has the world gone mad?

Yes, and no.

"Could It Be Magic? The Barry Manilow Songbook" opens with gorgeous, thundering chords by Frederick Chopin and in less time than it takes to say "Oh, Mandy" flips into a frenetic, flashy and sonically huge hip-hop version of the title tune.

Who'd a thunk it? Hip hop Manilow. It is effective.

And so is almost everything else about "Could It Be Magic," a buoyant, commercially savvy piece of pure pop pleasure. But hey kids, don't try this at home: It takes a certain level of panache and expertise to pull off this kind of thing. In addition to the potentially ludicrous hip-hop number, "Songbook" brings us the music of Barry Manilow performed by a mime, during a pillow fight and in a torrid (male) strip-tease that makes the recent heat wave seem downright lukewarm.

Manilow is, of course, the voice that made songs like "I Write the Songs" (music and lyrics by Bruce Johnston) such an integral part of the 8-track soundtrack that ran the length of the 1970s.

The music was and continues to a marriage of full-on schmaltz and unabashedly emotive money notes. Manilow hits aren't so much songs as they are melodramas. With "Songbook," the songs Manilow made household hummables are reinterpreted by a cast of five superior singers and dancers, two of whom -- Debra Byrd and Kye Brackett -- are longtime Manilow back-up singers and dancers.

Byrd, like Butler, is capable of the sort of rafter-raising Gospel belt powerful enough to make a sinner repent. With her numbers in "Songbook," Byrd paces herself carefully. When she does go full-throttle, such as on "Even Now," the very seats of the Mercury Theater seem to resonate. In a magnificent rendition of "I Am Your Child" (lyrics by Marty Panzer, music by Manilow), Byrd crescendos in tandem with a growing spotlight. Sure, the lighting design may be part of a calculated plan to pull the audience's emotions just so -- it succeeds.

Brackett is the effervescent dance man of the group. As choreographer for "Songbook," he has allotted himself more than a few hyper-energized solo spots that combine break dancing, ballet and jazz dance to marvelous effect. Brackett is also the maestro of charm for the group as he pulls in audience members for an interactive bit that involves a suit with built-in percussion instruments (nicely accessorized by a rainbow bracelet adorned with bells).

The ensemble also includes Keely Vasquez, demonstrating a vivacious charisma and a golden, alto voice, and Broadway vet Michael Lee, a smooth dancer and a smooth, gut-bustingly powerful singer.

The entire production is outfitted in an elaborate scheme of colored lights. Lighting and scenic designer Seth Jackson seems to aspire toward a Las Vegas-style glitz aesthetic, and he comes darn near close to achieving it.

As a whole, "Songbook" makes for splendid sensory overload. The one major disappointment of the production is the fact that writer/directors Manilow and Ken and Mitzie Welch didn't see fit to include a full rendition of "Copacapana" in it. We get a snippet of the song, during the curtain call, but other than that, the wonderfully tawdry and tragic tale of Lola ("still in the dress she used to wear//faded feathers in her hair//she sits there so refined//and drinks herself//half-blind//she lost her youth and she lost her Tony//now she's//lost//her//mind!") goes untold. One can only hope that the reason for this omission is that there are plans afoot to open "Barry Manilow's Copacabana," the musical that played London's West End for years, in Chicago shortly.

"Could it Be Magic: The Barry Manilow Songbook" runs at 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays; 5:30 and 9 p.m. Saturdays and 3 and 7 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 5 at the Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. Tickets are $40 and $45 and may be reserved by calling (773) 325-1700, or online at More information is also available by logging on to

June 18, 2001 Daily Southtown"Could It Be Magic? The Barry Manilow Songbook"
by Betty Mohr
"Could It Be Magic? The Barry Manilow Songbook" has blockbuster hit written all over it. In its world premiere at the Mercury Theater in Chicago, the revue of composer/singer Manilow's songs soars in a glitzy, sophisticated, and electrically-charged production that looks destined to end up on Broadway.

This winning show deserved every bit of the applause that, on opening night, punctuated every number and which climaxed at the finale with a rousing standing ovation from a very appreciative audience.

Written and directed by Mitzie and Ken Welch and Barry Manilow, this show is a tribute to the composers who wrote the music Manilow has sung in his more than 25-year career.

It included 29 of Manilow's big hits, such as "Ready to Take a Chance Again," "Can't Smile without You," "Somewhere in the Night," and "Copacabana" - some of which were written by Manilow, some of which were written by other songwriters and some of which were written in collaboration. The one thing that all the songs have in common is that Manilow presented them.

The action takes place on a minimalist stage setting with a backdrop platform for a six-piece orchestra and a center stage area for performance, well-designed by Seth Jackson. The proscenium stage is framed with the names of the composers honored in the show. When a composer's song comes up, his name lights up.

Though the show revolves around Manilow's songbook, there's plenty of laughs here, especially in the surprising discovery that Manilow not only wrote top hits but also wrote commercials such as the "Pepsi generation," "You deserve a break today [at] McDonald's," "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there," and "I'm stuck on band-aid."

While Kye Brackett's choreography and staging is impressive, Paul Tazewell's costumes strikingly colorful, and Manilow's new arrangements wonderful, the major kudos go to an amazing cast of five performers--Kye Brackett, E. Faye Butler, Debra Byrd, Michael K. Lee and Keely Vasquez - who sizzle with riveting dancing feet, sweet balladeering, and great comic send-ups.

From E. Faye Butler vocalizing a breathtaking "When October Goes," to music director Ron Walters, Jr. velvety crooning of "The Paradise Cafe," to Michael J. Lee's sexy rendition of "Jump Shout Boogie," to Kye Brackett and Keely Vasquez delightful "Mandy," and Debra Byrd's golden-voiced contribution to "I Don't Want to Walk Without You," each performance is a showstopper.

Moreover, when the entire ensemble gets together to sing "I Write the Songs," the audience went wild.

Titling this show "Could It Be Magic?" may on first sight seem an act of bravado. Yet, this lush spine-tingling production has been aptly named. Could it be Magic? You bet it is.

"Could It Be Magic? The Barry Manilow Songbook"
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 5:30 and 9 p.m. Saturday, 3 and 7 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Mercury Theater, 3745 N.
Southport Ave., Chicago.
Tickets: $40-$45.
Phone: (773) 325-1700.

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