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Barry Manilow launches Broadway show

Singer Barry Manilow preforms during the curtain call

Singer Barry Manilow preforms during the curtain call of “Manilow on Broadway” at the St. James Theatre in Manhattan. (Jan. 29, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

Barry Manilow, after canceling a week of performances including his opening night due to illness, finally launched his first Broadway show since 1989 Tuesday night.

“What a week!” Manilow said of his bout with bronchitis and the flu, after “Give My Regards to Broadway.” “I have hacked up enough phlegm to float Fire Island.”

He hasn't fully recovered from the strain – as well as the “Jewish guilt” Manilow said came with forcing so many of his fans to reschedule their plans last week. His voice was rough around the edges and, occasionally, too weak to hit some notes at the upper end of his register. But that hardly mattered.

“Manilow on Broadway” is a fast-paced retrospective of the Brooklyn native's life and career, built on his warmth and charm as a storyteller as much as the  songs that make the whole world sing. “We don't have any phantoms, any lions or any Spider-men,” Manilow said of his show, which runs through March 2. “All we have is hit songs.”

That is more than enough. Manilow showed how expansive his catalog is – from Broadway musicals to salsa, from “Brooklyn Blues” to the disco-era anthems of “Copacabana” and “Could It Be Magic.” And, of course, the '70s piano ballads, from “Mandy” to “Weekend in New England” that made him a star. “I was the Justin Bieber of the '70s,” Manilow said. “Ask your mothers.”

Even as he struggled, Manilow's show was good Tuesday night and it's only going to get better as his health returns. There were points early on when Manilow hesitated slightly before he launched into some big notes, like an ice skater about to attempt a difficult jump.

As his voice warmed up, those worries fell away and he was able to tell a lovely story about how his grandfather recognized young Barry's musical ability paired with a touching performance of “This One's for You.” He showed how sturdy “I Made It Through the Rain” is by dedicating it to those hurt by superstorm Sandy, while still delivering it as a forerunner to all the recent “It Gets Better”-styled songs from Lady Gaga and Katy Perry.

“I feel you willing me through this,” Manilow told the audience, after his voice faltered slightly. They did. Looks like he made it.

SETLIST: It's a Miracle / Could It Be Magic / Give My Regards to Broadway / Somewhere in the Night / Looks Like We Made It / Can't Smile Without You / Bandstand Boogie / Old Songs / Stay / Even Now / Brooklyn Blues / I Am Your Child / This One's for You / New York City Rhythm / Weekend in New England / Can't Take My Eyes Off You / Every Single Day / When October Goes / Tryin' to Get the Feeling Again / I Made It Through The Rain / Mandy / Could It Be Magic / Copacabana / I Write the Songs // ENCORE: It's a Miracle

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