Of course, to truly return to the 75-year-old Coleman's roots, you'd have to go back to his childhood days when he was a classical pianist making appearances at Carnegie or Town Hall before he was age ten. But in the 1950s he traded Bach for boites and made his living — prior to getting royalty checks from his Broadway shows — with the Cy Coleman Trio in engagements around the country.
His passion for playing got him in trouble with his early lyricist, Carolyn Leigh, who wished he would stay in New York and concentrate on musical theatre (they wrote Wildcat and Little Me). He would split up with Leigh and find smash success with Dorothy Fields, writing the songs for Sweet Charity, which will be revived for Broadway in 2005.
Coleman will relive those pre-Sweet Charity days Oct. 12-23, when he settles into a gig with two side men — Gary Haase (on bass) and Buddy Williams (on drums). The trio represents life as Coleman lived it — performing not just his own jazz waltzes and songs ("Witchcraft," anyone?) but tunes by other writers. Expect "Green Dolphin Street," "But Not for Me," "Comin' Home," "Mean to Me" and more. A sneak preview performance played Oct. 9 at Feinstein's in Manhattan.
The Feinstein's run conjures Coleman's milieu of 40 or more years ago, when he played smoke-filled rooms in Florida, hotels in Detroit and even his own 75-seat 58th Street nightclub, The Playroom, which he ran with partners in the late 1950s. William Holden had his own barstool there, Coleman told Playbill On-Line. A couple of jazz performance albums from that era have been re-released for CD, but Coleman said he'd like to unearth some others and get them on the market.
Why did Coleman stop performing? It's not that people stopped asking, he said. The Emmy-wining, Oscar nominated and Grammy-winning composer grew so busy creating and/or rehearsing musicals, from the film of "Sweet Charity" to Seesaw and beyond (including such unproduced shows as Eleanor, about Mrs. Roosevelt), that it became impractical to accept bookings.
It takes only the briefest time, however, for Coleman to click back into performance mode, he admitted. After all, he was a player before he was a writer, so he's just doing what comes — as Irving Berlin said — naturally.
The Feinstein's gig (with Coleman on piano and vocals) will include some of his classic pop songs as well as his beloved show tunes and material from such forthcoming shows as Like Jazz (with lyrics by Marilyn and Alan Bergman) and Pamela's First Musical (with lyrics by David Zippel).
All shows are at the Regency Hotel, 540 Park Avenue at 61st Street. The Cy Coleman Trio will perform Tuesday through Saturday at 8:30 PM with late shows on Friday and Saturday at 11 PM. All shows have a $60 cover. There is a $40 minimum for early shows and a $30 minimum for late shows. Jackets are suggested but not required.
Feinstein's at the Regency is located at 540 Park Avenue at 61st Street in New York City.
For ticket reservations and club information call (212) 339 4095 visit www.TicketWeb.com.