While the doors at the St. James Theater opened at 6:30 p.m., there was a line of fans nearly a block long waiting to get in when I arrived. After receiving my Playbill, I checked out the merchandise and found my seat. Upon entering the theater, I was struck by its beauty and intimacy. According to Manilow, it has a rich history of musical performances, including: Hello, Dolly!, The King and I, The Producers, and Oklahoma!.
At approximately 7:15 p.m. the lights dimmed and the crowd roared. With the curtain still down, the external stage lights started to gyrate, casting colorful beams across the audience. To the delight of the crowd, the speakers blared distorted snippets of Manilow’s greatest hits mixed with the pulsing beats of techno music.
After a couple minutes, horns sounded, a spotlight shot out and Manilow’s silhouette could be seen from behind the curtain. As the curtain rose, Manilow walked out of a cloud of light from the back of the stage and burst into “It’s A Miracle.” He then segued into Donna Summer’s version of “Could It Be Magic?”
After performing a handful of his biggest hits, including “Somewhere in the Night,” “The Old Songs” and “Even Now,” Manilow slowed things down with a beautiful rendition of “I Am Your Child.”
In addition to the hits fans have come to expect, like “Weekend in New England” and “Mandy,” Manilow dusted off a couple lesser-known songs: “Stay” and “Lay Me Down.” I was thrilled when he performed “Every Single Day,” as it’s my favorite Manilow song. Prior to the song he spoke about how he wrote a musical, Harmony, with his songwriting partner, Bruce Sussman, years ago but it never appeared on Broadway. I’m glad to report that Manilow said, “I might have some good news to share with you about this musical in the next couple days.” Clearly this implies that his labor of love may be coming to Broadway very soon.
He spoke of his grandfather trying to convince him to sing as a child in a record-your-own-voice booth a few blocks from the theater. Manilow had a scratchy recording of this particular moment played over the speakers. He then dedicated “This One’s For You” to his grandfather for seeing in him what he failed to see himself at that age – that he was a musician. As the song came to its crescendo, the scratchy recording of Manilow’s grandfather urging him to sing was layered on top of the crooner’s live vocals and it was chilling experience. Needless to say, he received a standing ovation for this song as well as many others throughout the night.
To get the crowd up and dancing, Manilow performed Frankie Valli’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and “Copacabana.” He closed out the show with “I Write The Songs” and a reprise of “It’s A Miracle,” replete with colored streamers shot out over the audience from the stage.
Manilow on Broadway was a wonderful show in an intimate atmosphere. If you’re looking for something fun to do in New York City, I highly recommend you check it out. But buy your tickets soon; the show closes on March 2.