In This Episode:
Learn More About The Comedian Harmonists: www.thecomedianharmonists.com
Learn More About Harmony A New Musical: www.harmonyanewmusical.com
In 1927, a young man in Germany placed an ad in the local paper:
“Attention. Rare opportunity. Tenor, Bass (professional singer not over 25), musically talented, nice-sounding voices, for unique ensemble. Kindly give days and times when available [for rehearsals, etc.]”
Out of that two-line ad, came one of the most celebrated music acts of the 20th century: the Comedian Harmonists. The internationally renowned vocal group made over 200 recordings, performed in over 150 concerts around the world and appeared in numerous films. They played the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Coliseum and Radio City Music Hall. And yet, for most, the name “Comedian Harmonists” doesn’t ring a bell. How could that be?
Well, the Comedian Harmonists rose to fame in the late 1920s and early 1930s in Germany — and half of its members were Jewish. Because of this, the Nazi regime designated the work of the Comedian Harmonists “degenerate art” and much of it was destroyed. Lost to history.
But…not all of it.
The little that there was inspired writer Bruce Sussman to dig into the story of the Comedian Harmonists and, with his artistic partner Barry Manilow, create a musical uncovering their music, artistry and stories for the world to know and remember. “Harmony” officially opened on Broadway November 13, 2023 at the Ethel Barrymore Theater .
And yet, there is only so much history one can fit into a Broadway musical. As Bruce said…
“I just needed to simplify, pair it down.” “There were so many things that I could have done, but I had to make choices. As Sondheim famously wrote, the choice may be wrong, but the choosing is right.”
Harmony closed on February 4, 2024 but the lost history it resurrected is worth a closer look. In this podcast, “Who Were The Comedian Harmonists? The True Story Behind Broadway’s Harmony”, we’re digging deeper into the true story of the Comedian Harmonists. I’m your host, Ruthie Fierberg, executive editor of Broadway News. Over the course of this series, we’ll dive into the full history of the Comedian Harmonists — it’s more complicated than you think. We’ll learn the details about each of the six famous singers — where they grew up, their musical specialty, their personal lives and what happened after their time with the group. Plus, you’ll hear from creatives and cast members about using this history to create “Harmony” onstage.
Join us. There’s a lot to uncover.
Host: Ruthie Fierberg
Editor: Mary Elizabeth Dina
Producers: Harmony A New Musical, Broadway New