A tiny piece of American entertainment history gets revived at Joe's Pub at The Public Theater March 8-9, when Cy Coleman and His Trio — known at smoky boites throughout Manhattan and other cities in the late 1950s and '60s — play Coleman's music for four performances.
Beyond being an expert jazz pianist, Coleman, of course, broke out of the routine of playing nightclubs and became one of the Broadway theatre's most successful composers. Much to the chagrin of his early-career lyricist, Carolyn Leigh, Coleman would play gigs around the country that kept him away from their in-person collaborations.
Coleman and Leigh wrote the hits "Witchcraft," "You Fascinate Me So," "The Best is Yet to Come," and wrote songs for Broadway's Little Me and Wildcat. Audiences got a taste of the trio at Carnegie Hall Jan. 18, when the New York Pops saluted the composer. The orchestral evening ended with a couple numbers by Coleman on piano, with bass and drums. This is Coleman's first booking at a club in many years.
"The Best is Yet to Come," Coleman said at his Carnegie Hall performance, began as a nimble, frantically-paced instrumental first heard in jazz clubs. He said Leigh loved the melody and said she wanted to set a lyric to it. It would become a slow, sexy song of mating ("Out of tree of life I just picked me a plum...you came along and everything started to hum...and it's a real good bet the best is yet to come," Leigh wrote). Other Coleman songs, such as the much-recorded "Witchcraft," also had their roots in his club performances.
The Tony, Grammy and Emmy Award-winning composer penned music for Broadway's City of Angels, I Love My Wife, Sweet Charity, The Life, Barnum, The Will Rogers Follies, Welcome to the Club and On the Twentieth Century. Sony Classical recently released a studio album, "It Started With a Dream," with new and old songs by Coleman, sung by Coleman (with special guests Lillias White and Tony Bennett). The title track is from his new musical with Wendy Wasserstein and David Zippel, Pamela's First Musical. Cy Coleman and His Trio will play Joeis Pub two nights (four performances) March 8-9.
The Coleman evening will be "and all-new program — new songs from new shows as well as reinventing some old favorites."
Cy Coleman and His Trio will play Joe's Pub 7 PM and 9:30 PM March 8-9. Ticket are $35. Call Telecharge at (212) 239-6200 or visit www.telecharge.com. The Public box office is at 425 Lafayette Street. For dinner reservations, call (212) 539-8778.
— By Kenneth Jones