It took a little while before Barry Manilow felt comfortable on Broadway.
The Man Who Makes the Whole World Sing is used to far bigger venues than the 1,710-seat St. James Theatre, one of the smaller theaters on the Great White Way, The Associated Press reports.
"It's a totally different feeling from the stage. I'm in their laps; they're in my lap. It's very, very intimate," Manilow, 69, says. "This is like going to somebody's house." Manilow -- and his fans dubbed Fanilows -- are clearly enjoying his first return to Broadway in nearly 25 years. Though his opening was postponed because of bronchitis, the singer sounded and looked great during a recent quick interview.
The New York City-born icon has had a street corner -- at Seventh Avenue and 44th Street -- temporarily renamed "Barry Manilow Way" and a caricature unveiled on Valentine's Day at Sardi's restaurant.
It's a long way from where he began in the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn, where "I was lucky to get home from school without getting beaten up." He later moved to a Manhattan studio apartment so small that he had to sleep under his Steinway grand piano.
"Manilow on Broadway," his two-hour show that opened Jan. 29 with makeup dates that now take the show into early March, will feature all the hits including "Could It Be Magic," "Mandy," "Copacabana" and "Can't Smile Without You." Manilow has sold more than 80 million albums worldwide and had a 50th hit -- "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" -- this Christmas on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart. "That was a nice Christmas present," he says, sipping white wine.
Manilow says he keeps his show fresh by making sure the arrangements are contemporary. "Every few years, I go back into all the songs and I update them so that it never sounds like an oldies show," he says. " 'Copacabana' sounds like it could have been released yesterday."
After Broadway, he says he'll continue doing weekend gigs on the road, working on two albums and is most excited at the idea of getting a new musical off the ground: "Harmony," which follows a group of singers through Germany's Weimar era and Nazi rule. He has written original songs for it, and Bruce Sussman has contributed the story and lyrics.
"I'm still hungry," Manilow says. "I've still got a million ideas. I'm still strong and ready to create."