Barry Manilow, master of the big ballad, has brought his talent for showmanship to Broadway for a month-long engagement.
Mixing show-biz sophistication with pure corn, "Barry Manilow at the Gershwin" is strong entertainment.The production is sleek, with costumed backup singers and projections on the back wall. Manilow inserts a rock beat in a few numbers, tackles the Motown sound a couple of times, and does one superfast Lambert Hendricks and Ross jazz number, "Cloudburst," that he admired early.
Though he's no slouch with those styles, the lengthy romantic ballad, given a big buildup to an emotional finish, is his strongest suit. He started the second half of the evening with three new songs of that type, pointing up once again that his style is grounded in a performance tradition older than rock.
In an autobiographical portion of the show, the singer-pianist picked up the accordion, which he said he learned (and hated) at age 11, two years before he learned piano. In front of a set representing the Brooklyn apartment where he grew up, he demonstrated that even Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." sounds old-fashioned on an accordion.
He also talked about being a pianist for singers auditioning for Broadway, but didn't mention his hitch as musical director on Bette Midler's 1973 tour.
Manilow ended the evening with a medley of many hits, including "One Voice," "I Don't Want To Walk without You," "Copacabana," "This One's for You," "Tryin' To Get the Feeling Again," "It's a Miracle," and "I Write the Songs."