With more than 80 million records sold worldwide and a career spanning more than 35 years, renowned singer-songwriter Barry Manilow is a music icon. What many people may not know is that he’s also a successful jingle writer. Early on in his career, he penned songs for brands like Band-Aid (“I am Stuck on Band-Aid ‘cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me”) and State Farm (“Like a good neighbor State Farm is there”). This is one of the many facts he shares with his audience members in his show at Paris Las Vegas. Guests at the show don’t just get to hear some of Manilow’s greatest hits performed live, they also get a chance to hear him talk about his life and how he rose to fame as one of the top ranking Adult Contemporary chart artists of all time.
Manilow’s career started when he was just seven years old and learned to play the accordion and piano. While still in his teens, Brooklyn native Manilow attended New York College of Music and the Julliard School of Music. During that time he also worked in the mailroom at CBS, which led to a lucrative career as a jingle writer. In 1971 Manilow teamed up with Bette Midler and became her music director, arranger and pianist. The following year, he signed a record deal and in 1975 he released his breakthrough album featuring the No. 1 hit song “Mandy.” The song’s success made Manilow an instant star. Between 1975 and 1983 Manilow had 25 consecutive Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 including “It’s A Miracle,” “Could It Be Magic,” “I Write the Songs” and “Looks Like We Made It.” He has worked on more than 40 albums throughout his career as a singer, songwriter, arranger and producer. His most recent album “The Greatest Love Songs of All Time” was released in January 2010. Before opening his show at Paris in March 2010 Manilow wowed audiences as a headliner at the Las Vegas Hilton for five years.
In his new show, Manilow performs with a live band and four back-up singers and dancers in the intimate 1,500-seat Theatre des Arts at Paris Las Vegas. Directed by stage and film choreographer and director Jeffrey Hornaday, (“Flashdance, “Chorus Line,” “High School Musical”) the show also features video and other production elements that add to Manilow’s exhilarating performances of songs including “Mandy,” “New York City Rhythm” and the Grammy Award-winning “Copacabana (At the Copa).” Along with the big production numbers the show has acts that feature just Manilow singing and playing the piano.
“I am so proud to be the guy to introduce all of these songs to you,” says Manilow during the show before taking a seat on the piano and singing “Weekend in New England.” With the spotlight on him and the piano, guests get a chance to see the performer in his natural element. Another of these moments comes during Manilow’s performance of “I Am Your Child.” Afterwards, he talks about how his grandfather was the first person in his family to recognize his musical talent. He describes a memory from he was 4 years old and his grandfather took him to a shop where people could make their own records. Manilow recorded the song “Nature Boy” and plays the same record for the audience.
Guests get another glimpse of Manilow’s past when video clips of his first appearances on “American Bandstand” and “Midnight Special are played on large screens hanging above the stage. The 1975 “Midnight Special” video clip of Manilow performing “Mandy” becomes a live duet for the audience with Manilow seated at a white piano playing and singing the song live along with the video.
Along with his repertoire of hit songs, Manilow performs classic love songs from his new album including George Gershwin’s “Love is Here to Stay” and “Where Do I Begin? (Theme From Love Story).”
During the show fans don’t just get to hear their favorite songs. The intimate showroom and production elements let them experience Manilow’s music in a way that only Vegas knows how to do. Hearing the songs is one thing, but seeing Manilow on a Vegas stage will have you thinking “Could It Be Magic?”
Q:What are you trying to achieve with how your music is presented in your new show at Paris?
A. “My main goal is always to make people feel something – joy, hope, nostalgia, inspiration. I am on the stage to amuse, entertain and inspire. I want the audience to forget the real world for 90 minutes and come with me.
I want my music to always sound current, never to feel like ‘oldies.’ I want my songs to sound timeless. So, my incredible band and the brilliant people that work with me are always on the lookout for how to rearrange my songs so that they never sound dated, but never lose their honesty.”
What is special about your show in Vegas that people can’t experience if they see you perform in another location?
A. “Jeffery Hornaday and his team worked with me to create a show specifically for the showroom at Paris Las Vegas. We built a show that is romantic, exciting and fits only in the Paris showroom.”
Do you have a favorite song that you perform in the show?
A. “I love what we’ve done with ‘Copacabana.’ I look forward to it every night. I know the audience isn’t expecting Copa to sound, feel and look like what we’re doing with it. They’re always surprised.”
You’ve been headlining in Vegas for many years. How has performing in this city changed for you over the years?
A: “I love performing in Las Vegas. The audiences are ready to have a good time. When the lights go down and the show begins, I always feel like I’m walking out to a bunch of dear friends.”
What do you enjoying doing when you are not performing?
A: “Playing with my dogs. Watching the plants and flowers in my greenhouse grow. Being with friends. Sitting in front of my computer and composing and arranging new songs.”
You have many hit songs that can still be heard on the radio today. What do you think is the magic ingredient for creating music that continues to be popular with old fans and attract new ones?
A: “It’s always about the quality of the writing of the song, not so much about the great technology that engineers can create these days. I think that if you write a great song, the public will respond to it and always want
to hear it.”
Aside from being an entertainer is there anything else that you’ve always wanted to accomplish?
A: “I’d like to have my music performed on a Broadway stage.”
What inspired you to create your Manilow Fund for Health and Hope Program?
A: “My management company, run by the brilliant Garry Kief, was capable and ready to help me give back. They came up with The Manilow Fund and put together this wonderful idea of concentrating on the smaller, grassroots
organizations that are always forgotten. We collect funds from the generous fans and the public in many different ways and then we send donations to these small organizations that are struggling to help people.”
How do you continue to stay inspired as both an entertainer and composer?
A: “Music inspires me. It takes me away. It heals me. Nothing in my life has ever come closer to perfection than when the music is right. When it’s over for me I want people to know: ‘The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.’”
VEGAS.com asked Manilow some questions posed by our Facebook followers. Here is how Manilow responded.
Do you still love performing the way you did when you first started your career as an entertainer?
A: “Ah, yes! Even more so. I was so terrified when I began, I couldn’t do my best work. Now I’m so grateful for being able to still make music, it’s even more wonderful for me.”
What is your favorite greatest love song of all time and why?
A: My favorite love song of all time is ‘The Folks That Live On The Hill’ by Oscar Hammerstien and Jerome Kern. The music that Kern composed is divine and Hammerstein’s lyric is so moving, it gets me every time.”
How do you keep the show and your voice fresh after performing so many concerts per week?
A: “The audience makes the show fresh every night.”