It might have been a disappointment for Barry Manilow fans with the delay of his Tuesday opening, but it was worth the wait to see Manilow On Broadway. I saw the performance on Thursday evening, giving him enough time for his voice to shape up even more. Despite his throat sometimes sounding a bit horse, he held and hit the notes.
Glow sticks given to the audience, no ban on photo taking and a mass of standing ovations after most of his numbers, the night was a Mani-fest. The atmosphere felt more like an outdoor concert without “an opening act”. He was determined to sing all of his songs referring to himself as the “Justin Bieber of the 70’s”.
There were stories to tell complete with a background screen. One had him on a past television program playing the piano and singing as he joined in at the baby grand to complete the song. Yes, at times he would either play the piano at one side of the stage or the keyboard on the other.
Growing up in Brooklyn was a hot topic as he lived in Williamsburg and at that time going to “the worst high school in the city”. He said that he had three choices: sports (which he was no good at), music, or joining a gang. "Can you imagine… me… in a gang?" he asked the audience with a smiling incredulity. Music was always a passion with having a grandfather to be supportive since he was a toddler. We got to hear his first “recording” as well as seeing a movie depicting him and his grandfather strolling.
When he got an apartment in Manhattan, it was small. That didn’t stop him from buying his dream baby grand piano that he slept under as the pull out bed stretched somewhat beneath it.
“Fanilows” were there to cheer the 69-year-old on. I could imagine back in my parent’s time sitting at a Frank Sinatra concert. Cheering, screaming, even crying. Barry gave them the opportunity to sing along and it appeared that this audience knew every word.
Total high energy of Low wafted throughout the St. James Theatre on West 44th Street. Me? I was seated in the fourth row, aisle seat on the left. Couldn’t get better than that and surrounded by what appeared to be Barry’s fan club for the VIP seats, worth every cent to them. One avid fan, Susan Liben, seated next to me, appeared in shock being so close to the stage and trying to refrain from singing out loud.
I have never been a fan or not a fan of Manilow. As a lover of music and singer, having learned the piano, I enjoyed practicing with Manilow music. Along with enough Manilow hits, I had no problem recognizing the songs (accept for two) or knowing the lyrics. He’s not dancing but does some movements to the screams of fans.
What songs did he sing? Here is my rendition of Barry Manilow having a conversation with himself: "Could It Be Magic? Looks Like We Made It, A Weekend In New England. Now, Are You Ready To Take A Chance? Okay, I Write The Songs. Flashback. It’s A Miracle that I Made It Through the Rain to the Copacabana where I have a Memory of doing the New York City Rhythm of Bandstand Boogie, Somewhere In The Night until Daybreak. A toast! To, Mandy, my dentist, I Can’t Smile Without You. Well, I’ve come a long way since the Brooklyn Blues. Even Now I say, 'Grandpa, This One’s For You'. "