Theater review: 'Manilow on Broadway' -- 2 stars

Barry Manilow

Barry Manilow (Credit: Handout)

Manilow on Broadway

2 stars

My adventures in theatergoing occasionally bring me to shows where I am out of place with the bulk of the audience, prime examples being ones meant for kids (i.e. "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas") or avant-garde enthusiasts (any Living Theatre or Richard Foreman production).

But never have I felt so out of place as I did at "Manilow on Broadway," where I was surrounded by mostly female Baby Boomers who giddily waved neon glow sticks (distributed by the ushers at no charge), sang along and stood up for almost the entire 90-minute concert.

My date with Barry had been unexpectedly delayed due to the singer's sudden case of bronchitis, which led to him canceling a week's worth of performances. The Tuesday night, Jan. 22 performance was canceled less than an hour before show time, causing confusion and chaos outside the St. James Theatre.

The concert is a shameless rehash of Manilow's biggest hits ("Mandy," "Copacabana," "I Write the Songs" and so on) along with some archival video footage and awkwardly self-loving patter in which Manilow points out his Brooklyn background and describes himself as the Justin Bieber of the 1970s.

Although Manilow showed no obvious signs of having just been sick, his voice is hardly as strong now as it was years ago. Even with the aid of backup singers, he came across as overamplified and shrill.

Those who are already fans (i.e. the Fanilows) are sure to enjoy themselves. Everyone around me sure did. In fact, the woman next to me refused to let me leave even after the curtain call just in case Manilow were to do another encore.

Manilow was at his best when performing a song from "Harmony," a musical he wrote a decade ago that never made it to Broadway because of financial and legal problems. Once that moment passed, he drifted back into autopilot mode and proceeded to preach to the already converted.

If you go: "Manilow on Broadway" plays through March 2 at the St. James Theatre. 246 W. 44th St., 212-239-6200,
manilowonbroadway.com.

Tags: entertainment , barry manilow , windman , manilow on broadway

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