What do you do when you're Barry Manilow and your Broadway show has just ended? Take it on the road.
“Barry Manilow: Manilow on Broadway,” a nearly two-hour compilation of the singer-songwriter's greatest hits, begins its nationwide tour at 7:30 p.m. April 18 at Memorial Coliseum.
The Grammy, Tony, Emmy, Clio and American Music Award winner is best known for recording “Mandy,” “I Write the Songs,” “Could It Be Magic,” “Ships,” “Can't Smile Without You,” “Copacabana” and “Weekend in New England.”
Manilow's Broadway show played to intimate audiences in the historic St. James Theater. “This was welcoming home a New York guy,” he said in a phone interview. “I was Cousin Barry coming home. It was a great, great experience.”
Now that the show is going to bigger venues, Manilow maintains that intimate feeling with his audiences by encouraging them to participate in his personal mission to furnish schools with musical instruments that school districts cannot afford — the Manilow Music Project.
Through this musical instrument drive for Fort Wayne Community Schools, anyone who brings an instrument to the coliseum box office will receive two free tickets in a designated section at next week's concert. Manilow already has indicated he will donate a Yamaha piano.
The project started about eight years when a friend asked Manilow to find a saxophone for his daughter because the school she attended did not have one. Manilow researched and found art and music budgets were being cut all over the country.
“Wow! I don't know what I would have done without music classes in my life,” he said.
Manilow then made deals with Yamaha and other organizations to raise money and donate instruments to schools in need.
Now he's holding instrument drives in every city he's touring and asking for the public's help in achieving his goal to have music in middle and high schools.
“I'm just one guy trying to do something that means a lot to me to keep music in the schools,” he said. “I'm very grateful to the audiences for bringing these instruments down and maybe it'll make a little dent in every city.”
Manilow's Broadway experience may have ended March 2, but he's not done with theater productions. He and songwriting partner Bruce Sussman have written “Harmony,” a Broadway musical, opening in September in Atlanta before it moves on to Los Angeles in early 2014.
“I'm not in it (“Harmony”). I'm a composer, which is what I've always wanted to do,” Manilow said. “When I began in this music business, this was what I was going to do. I was going to be a Broadway composer. There was something that got in my way — 'Mandy.' Suddenly, I was in another world of music. It was a great world of music… When things began to calm down, Bruce and I decided to give it a try again. It's a real beauty. This is the proudest thing I've ever been involved with.”
Manilow has written and recorded all types of music, including big band, show tunes, pop and jazz. “I've been very fortunate to have a record company to allow me to do those kinds of things,” he said. “Over the years, I've tackled and dabbled in all sorts of genres. I do stay away from hip-hop and rap. That is not my thing.”
Surprisingly, the songs that have catapulted Manilow to the top of pop charts are the hardest for him to write.
“How many songs can I write 'I love you' or 'I miss you' or 'I hate you'?” he asked. “It's easier to write for an animated movie or for a Broadway show because there's an idea there. These pop songs I have been making over these years are more difficult. However, I've been able to do them and I love doing them, but I don't just walk around with a melody in my head.”
Manilow lives to make music — even in his spare time.
“My life, my world revolves around music,” he said. “There's always something for me to work on… I still have the energy I had when I was in my 30s. I'm still hungry to create. I'm one of the lucky ones. I'm still just as full of energy and full of passion as I've always been. That's why I don't do very much more than make music. I just love it.”