Jana Robbins, currently standing by for both Valerie Harper and Michele Lee in Broadway's The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, will sing the songs of Cy Coleman over four Sundays in March, at Arci's Place in Manhattan.
One Hell of a Ride!, the title of which is drawn from Coleman and Dorothy Fields' musical, Seesaw, plays 8 PM March 10, 17, 24 and 31. Doyle Newmeyer is musical director, accompanying on piano.
Robbins' link to composer Coleman goes back to 1976 when she stood by for the women in I Love My Wife on Broadway.
"I've been singing his jazz standards for years — 'The Best is Yet to Come,' 'You Fascinate Me So,' 'Witchcraft,'" Robbins told Playbill On-Line. The actress who has made a career out of standing by or understudying for ladies such as Tyne Daly in Gypsy and Linda Lavin in Allergist's Wife, said that one of the things she dreamed of when she came to New York from Johnstown, PA, years ago, was playing in big nightclubs where jazz and pop flowed as freely as champagne.
Robbins said Coleman — who was first a classical player, then a jazz player, then a pop and Broadway composer — bridges the gap between club jazz and Broadway. "His music fits my voice," Robbins said. She appreciates "how well he writes for women — women living on the edge, women wanting to make something better out of their lives, women with an outer strength but an inner vulnerability. I relate to these women."
The evening, subtitled The Songs of Cy Coleman, includes such early songs as "When in Rome," "You Fascinate Me So" and "Moment of Madness," plus Little Me's "Don't Ask a Lady" and songs from Seesaw, City of Angels, Sweet Charity and more.
This is Robbins' third cabaret act in Manhattan, and this time around she's focusing on Coleman's work rather than her own personal journey. DJ Salisbury directs.
"I very specifically wanted to back out and not have it be about me," she said. "It's about Cy Coleman, but to be intimate with my audience I speak about my connection to his music."
(For trivia buffs, Cy Coleman in uniquely connected to the company of Allergist's Wife: Michele Lee starred in Seesaw on Broadway, Valerie Harper appeared in the ensemble of Wildcat, and Charles Busch played an aging Belle Poitrine in a Nederlander-produced Little Me in the Detroit area.)
On Broadway, Robbins appeared as Mazeppa in the Tyne Daly revival of Gypsy, and in Crimes of the Heart, Romance/Romance and Good News. She has played regional and touring houses all over the country. At the age of 21, she played Aldonza in Man of La Mancha, opposite Jose Ferrer.
Arci's Place is at 450 Park Ave. South at 30th Street. Admission is $30 cover with a $15 food/drink minimum per person. For reservations, call (212) 532-4370.
— By Kenneth Jones