The Comedian Harmonists, with their impeccable blend of sophisticated harmonies and witty parodies, took the world by storm in the 1920s and early 1930s. Their rise seemed unstoppable, gracing stages from Berlin to Broadway, packing halls with eager audiences, and starring in over two dozen films. But just as abruptly as they ascended, their music fell silent, leaving behind a story begging the question: what happened to the Comedian Harmonists?
The answer, tragically, lies at the crossroads of art and history. While their success initially flourished amid the cultural vibrancy of Germany, it was directly threatened by the dark tide of rising Nazism.
Here are the key factors that led to the end of their journey:
The group’s meteoric rise was tragically cut short by the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany. Three of the Comedian Harmonists – Harry Frommermann, Roman Cycowski, and Erich A. Collin – were Jewish, and as Nazi persecution intensified, their careers and personal lives were threatened.
- As the Nazi Party rose to power in 1933, Jewish culture and artists faced increasing discrimination.
- Public performances with Jewish members became increasingly perilous, and venues began shunning the group.
- The Comedian Harmonists began to face pressure to remove Jewish composers’ works from their repertoire.
- They replaced some Jewish repertoire with “politically acceptable” songs, a move that sparked internal conflict.
- They were eventually banned from performing on state radio and television, and their concerts were disrupted by Nazi sympathizers.
With a fractured lineup and an increasingly hostile environment, the Comedian Harmonists gave their final performance on August 14th, 1934. Although some members attempted to carry on with different arrangements, the magic of their unified ensemble was irrevocably lost. By 1935, with official bans on Jewish musicians in place, the group officially disbanded.
The Musical about The Comedian Harmonists
Harmony, a new musical about The Comedian Harmonists, is now on Broadway.
The complete Broadway cast includes Chip Zien as Rabbi, Sierra Boggess as Mary, Julie Benko as Ruth, Sean Bell, Danny Kornfeld, Zal Owen, Eric Peters, Blake Roman, and Steven Telsey as the Comedian Harmonists, Allison Semmes as Josephine Baker, Andrew O’Shanick as Standartenfϋhrer, Zak Edwards, Dan Hoy, Bruce Landry, Rhonni Rose Mantilla, Daniel Z. Miller, Benjamin H. Moore, Matthew Mucha, Constantine Pappas, Kayleen Seidl, Kyla Stone, Bronwyn Tarboton, Kate Wesler, Stuart Zagnit, and Lee Zarrett.
To learn more about Harmony: A New Musical, click here.