As a young man I remember the very sad day my sister moved out of the house. My melancholia was due to the fact I adored her, of course, but I will confess I missed all the Barry Manilow records she had taken with her.
So it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to attending the one-night only NEW YORK POPS 40TH BIRTHDAY GALA – This One’s For You: The Music of Barry Manilow.
The sparkling evening began as these events often do, with the ever-charismatic Steven Reineke bounding onto the stage and leading the orchestra in a thrilling overture which had the audience humming along to the familiar strains of “Copacabana”, “One Voice”, “It’s a Miracle”, “Mandy” and others.
Donned in a festive purple paisley suit, delightful co-host Michael Urie (Apple TV+ Shrinking) burst in with a humorous intro. Promising not to sing, he declared himself not just a “Fanilow” but also “Ambassilow” for the evening and proceeded to introduce the various guests on hand to celebrate the Pops’ 40th birthday. Bergen would later return to the stage with the kids of Camp Broadway, delivering a pretty yet neutral rendition of “One Voice.”
First to take the stage were the handsome pair Erich Bergen (Madam Secretary) and Max von Essen (An American in Paris), sharing a charming “I Don’t Want to Walk Without You/Can’t Smile Without You” with soft-shoe, hats, and canes. Next up in a gorgeous green and gold backless gown was recording artist Deborah Cox (BET’s First Wives Club), who showed her range and gave us a sexy, disco version of “Could It Be Magic.”
Norm Lewis (Once on This Island) then took the stage and won the audience with his smooth, golden, powerful voice in “Ships.” Shimmering gold from head to toe, Megan Hilty (Smash) followed with a warm and delicate “When October Goes.”
The stage could not contain the burgundy-and-gold bedazzled Lillias White (Hadestown), who busted out “Weekend in New England” in her bigger-than-life brilliance, earning one of the evening’s first standing ovations.
Grammy winner Melissa Manchester (“Don’t Cry Out Loud”) fulfilled a life-long dream by singing Manilow’s “I Am Your Child,” giving us a soulful and husky version filled with heart. Von Essen returned to the stage with cabaret notables Jim Caruso (Birdland’s “Cast Party”) and songwriter/accompanist/composer Billy Stritch (“Does He Love You”) to sing a medley of Manilow’s most famous commercial jingles.
Joining the ranks of other pop stars who have composed musicals on Broadway, Manilow and long-time collaborator lyricist Bruce Sussman, have joined together to create the new musical Harmony, which begins previews on October 18 at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. On this evening, the audience was treated to two selections from the musical, sublimely performed by the Comedian Harmonists.
The evening’s crowning moments consisted of an appearance by “every songwriter’s secret weapon” Dionne Warwick, who gave a stately, reserved, and grateful performance of “All the Time”. The spicy, ageless, and curvaceous Charo, all red and sparkles then tore the house down with “Copacabana” in Spanish, forgetting half the lyrics and losing her place on the teleprompter but absolutely no one cared; she gathered us all up in her trademark energy and danced her way across the first row of the audience. The evening’s celebrant himself, Barry Manilow, came down from the balcony and treated us all to heartwarming stories of his grandfather and “This One’s for You.” The show was capped by a perfect finale medley with the full cast as the Kids on Stage and Camp Broadway ran into the aisles.
A night of key changes and songs for all Fanilows to remember!
THE NEW YORK POPS 40TH BIRTHDAY GALA – This One’s for You: The Music of Barry Manilow (one night only, May 5, 2023)
Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage @ Carnegie Hall, 881 7th Ave, in Manhattan
For more information, visit https://newyorkpops.org/
Running time: two hours without an intermission