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The Best is Yet to Come: The Music of Cy Coleman
Cy's songs at once reflect our experiences, mirror our follies and encourage our fantasies. In the end, these songs are the keepers of his flame. —Larry Gelbart at the Cy Coleman memorial.
From an award-worthy lineup of standout performers, it is one singer who proves to be a show-stopper. Brandishing a large Afro, Lillias White sasses her way through the Will Rogers optimism of,"Never Met a Man I Didn't Like." Then, plopping down on a stool, she whips off her Afro, showing an almost bald head, to bemoan the gritty wear and tear of, "The Oldest Profession." This is the prime turbo-charged moment in The Best is Yet to Come: The Music of Cy Coleman, an 85-minute, all-music revue at 59E59 Theaters.
left to right:
Lillias White, Howard McGillan, Sally Mayes, David Burnham, Rachel York in The Best is Yet to Come: The Music of Cy Coleman
Cy Coleman was a versatile musical genius, writing music with folksy flair for Will Rogers Follies, urbane and soulful R&B in The Life and toe-tapping rhythms in the colloquial Sweet Charity. He injected sex, jazz and razzamatazz into his sparkling music, collaborating with some of the country's best lyricists to produce hit pop tunes like, "Witchcraft," along with Broadway standards like Sweet Charity's "Big Spender" His tunes are favorites for jazz performers and have been recorded by leading popular singers including Sinatra and Streisand.
On Douglas Schmidt's silver and black set, with the band spiffed up in black tie and singers wearing glam gowns by William Ivey Long, music arranger/conductor/ pianist, Billy Stritch, is seated at a piano in an onstage pit. Tony Bennett used to sing one of Cy Coleman's most touching ballads, "It Amazes Me," at every opening night of jazz pianist/singer Barbara Carroll's many seasons at the Hotel Carlyle's Bemelman's Bar. Here it is poignantly delivered by Stritch. The melody, a series of short lines, is brilliantly matched to the lyrics of Carolyn Leigh, one of several Coleman collaborators. Coleman and Leigh songs, like the title tune and "I've Got Your Number" performed with finger-snapping swing by David Burnham, showcase Coleman's tricky intervals that Leigh fitted with punchy, sexy lyrics. Rachel York, a gorgeous showgirl who can put across a song with plenty of zip, did just that with "Hey, Look Me Over" from Coleman and Leigh's show written for Lucille Ball, Wildcat.
Coleman also had great success with writer Dorothy Fields, who added her razzle-dazzle street-talk to the musicals, See Saw and Sweet Charity. From See Saw , Sally Maye scored with her mix of comedy and pathos in "Nobody Does It Like Me." The cast ended with a mix of standards, including, "It's Not Where You Start": and "If My Friends Could See Me Now":
Other Coleman collaborators were Michael Stewart and Marilyn and Alan Bergman. Lillias White and the cast performed the Bergmans', "Those Hands" with nifty choreography. Coleman's final collaborator was Tony Award-winner David Zippel ( City of Angels, ), who devised and directed this revue. He chose specific types of performers to sing Coleman's songs: Lusty, sassy Lillias White; femme fatale, Rachel York; Sally Mayes, the vulnerable innocent; a youthful swinger, David Burnham and the more mature Howard McMillan.
Despite the credentials of all the performers, it is Lillias White who impresses with her humor and insight, along with Billy Stritch's catchy arrangements and smooth silky singing style. The downside is the communication between the sexes in the love songs, which never heated higher than tepid. Missing also is the lack of any narration. This was a revue of songs, running smoothly one after another, but we learned nothing about the songwriter, his classical beginnings, his years with a jazz trio, the nightclub he owned (The Playroom), or his awards.
The title song, "The Best is Yet to Come," that opens and closes the show may be prophetic since the show includes five new songs planned for a future musical with lyrics by David Zippel. That's something to look forward to, but right now, at 59E59 Theaters, you can at least enjoy a few hours of Cy Coleman's rhythmic, jazzy musical legacy. But you'll have to read a book to learn about the man himself.
The Best is Yet to Come: The Music of Cy Coleman|
Devised and Directed by David Zippel
Cast: Lillias White, Billy Stritch, Sally Mayes, Howard McGillin, Rachel York and David Burnham
Musical Director and Conductor: Billy Stritch
Scenic Design: Douglas W. Schmidt
Costume Design: William Ivey Long
Production Stage Manager: Christina Burck
Lighting Design: Michael Gilliam
Sound Design: Jonathan Burke
Orchestrations: Don Sebesky
Choreography: Lorin Latarro
Running Time: 85 minutes, no intermission
59E59 Theaters: 59 East 59 St.
Tickets: $65. $45.50 members. (212-753-5959) or visit www.59e59.org.
Performances: Tues.-Thurs. at 7:00 PM; Fri. at 8:00 PM; Sat. at 2:00 PM and 8:00 PM; Sun. at 3:00 PM and 7:00 PM. No 7:00 PM performance on Sun., June 12; there is an added matinee performance on Wed. June 8 at 2:00 PM.
From 5/18/11; opening 5/25/11; closing 7/3/11. .
Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors based on performance 5/22/11.
"The Best is Yet to Come"-Cast
"Nobody Does It Like Me"-Sally Mayes
"You Can Always Count on Me"-Rachel York, Lillias White, Sally Mayes
"You Fascinate Me So"-Howard McGillin
"Don't Ask A Lady"-Lillias White
"I've Got Your Number"-David Burnam
"What You Don't Know About Women"-Sally Mayes, Rachel York
"Come Summer"-Rachel York
"It Amazes Me"-Billy Stritch
Money Medley : "Five Zeroes, On the Other Side of the Tracks, Big Spender, Never Enough, I Wanna Be Yours"-Sally Mayes, Rachel York, Howard McGillin, David Burnham
"Never Met a Man I Didn't Like"-Lillias White
"The Oldest Profession"-Lillias White
"Only the Rest of My Life"-Rachel York, David Burnham
"Little Me"-Billy Stritch, Lillias White
"Hey, Look Me Over"-Rachel York
"The Measure of Love"-Sally Mayes, Howard McGillin
"Some Kind of Music"-Billy Stritch
"With Every Breath I Take"-Sally Mayes
"Hey, Look Me Over"-Rachel York
"The Doodling Song"-Rachel York
"I'd Give the World"-Howard McGillin
"Those Hands"-Lillias White and cast
"It Started With a Dream"-Cast
Megamix : "It's Not Where You Start, If My Friends Could See Me Now, Hey There, Good Times, We're Nothing Without You, The Best is Yet to Come"
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