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Barry Manilow, Amazing Johnathan connections in NYC

Updated August 19, 2019 - 9:28 pm

NEW YORK — The Kats! Bureau is the 10th floor of the Marcel at Gramercy hotel, in the Gramercy Park neighborhood in Manhattan. It’s wicked-humid here right now. As John Lennon once said, “Tomorrow will be Muggy, followed by Tuggy, Wuggy and Thuggy.”

I’ve crossed a few bridges to Las Vegas during this sweeping visit, the centerpiece being an invite-only first look last Monday at “Goodman: An American Musical” based on the life and times of Oscar Goodman. Elsewhere, Saturday night, I caught Barry Manilow’s closing Broadway run, along with Smith Center President Myron Martin and Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, Cleveland Clinic Development Director Jody Ghanem.

Clint Holmes is appearing in two shows ending Sunday night with multi-instrumentalist/bandleader Christian Tamburr’s band at Dizzy’s Club at Broadway and 60th. The Venetian Sands Showroom headliners Human Nature are set to appear Monday morning on “Today” from Rockefeller Center.

What else … Martin and I caught Brian Newman, Lady Gaga’s longtime bandleader and close friend, Saturday for a late-night hang at the Fine & Rare supper club (gee, Newman would be a great fit at Cabaret Jazz).

We’re also tucking in a visit with Cleveland Clinic exec Michael Severino to Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band at Pier 17; Ringo headlined at Planet Hollywood in 2017, and we feel he’s always between visits to Vegas.

Manilow in ‘Harmony’

Manilow’s legions were out in full voice at Lunt-Fontanne Theatre for Manilow’s finale in his 17-show series. It was like the Fanilow Pop Festival. He’s from nearby Williamsburg, and it was clear by the roaring response to his very arrival onstage this audience was there on purpose. I was reminded of how headliners remark about Las Vegas crowds being tough to win over, as many are comped in or might have arrived at a show as their third option on a given night.

But for this crowd, Manilow was a destination. His devotees rose for several standing ovations, and Manilow halted for several seconds over shouts during “Weekend in New England,” saying, “What is going ON out there?”

At the finish, the superstar plugged the Westgate show, “I want you all to come and see us in Las Vegas, too!” He’s back Sept. 19 for 11 more shows.

Manilow also announced from the stage his long-in-development musical, “Harmony,” is finally ready for the New York stage on Feb. 11. The pop-music icon has been working on the original production for about 20 years. It’s not Manilow’s own life story, but a tale of a “Harmony” singing group from Germany in the 1930s that became famous just as the Nazis seized power in their home country. The musical opens at National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene in New York City, though as Manilow emphasized from the stage, “It won’t be in Yiddish. It will be in English.”

Manilow said afterward his stewardship of that show will not interfere with any plans for him to extend his residency at Westgate.

Manilow has built a tight relationship with hotel owner David Siegel, the hotel staff loves him and the show, and (relevantly) he still sells well. I would anticipate that Manilow, at 76, will be a headliner at International Theater for as long as he wants.

As for the Broadway series, despite reports of some turmoil in the show, producers — and Manilow himself — said they were happy with the $3.5 million gross over 17 shows. But Manilow is more passionate about art than arithmetic. He made work calls to the band and crew Saturday morning to fine-tune Saturday’s night finale. The great ones do that.

A.J. doc diagnosis

Recent Manhattan transplant and former longtime Vegas set designer Andy Walmsley is an unseen but vital figure in “The Amazing Johnathan Documentary,” which premiered Friday on Hulu.

The doc returns to the Walmsley-produced “ENTSpeaks” show at Inspire in downtown Las Vegas in October 2014. This was the numbing moment when A.J., his voice wavering, memorably told the crowd, “I was told I have a year to live.” An audience member laughs, but A.J. adds, “It’s not a joke.”

Documentarian Ben Berman paid Walmsley for the rights to use that footage, central to Johnathan’s tragic story of being diagnosed with a degenerative heart condition and performing a final set of live shows.

There is more to tell, but no spoilers here. See the documentary. It’s amazing.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts.Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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