Larry Gelbart (Sly Fox, City of Angels, TV's "M*A*S*H") provided continuity for the unusual show, a conceptual revue painting varied portraits of the jazz community.
Gordon Davidson staged the production for Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles Nov. 25, 2003 Jan. 25, 2004. Mark Taper Forum presented the work in association with Transamerica and associate producers Rudy Durand and Bud Yorkin, who would presumably be the producers connected to future commercial life.
Tony Award-winner Coleman said he'd like to see a New York berth for the show, which (in Los Angeles) featured an 18-piece band onstage and a cast of singers and dancers The L.A. troupe included Patti Austin, Bill Cantos, Jennifer Chada, Cleavant Derricks, Katy Durham, Harry Groener, Dameka Hayes, Greg Poland, Nicki Richards, Jack Sheldon, Timothy Ware, Lillias White, Carlton Wilborn, Natalie Willes.
Asked if there may be another regional stop for the work, Coleman said, "You know, I never mind tryouts, I think they only help."
Coleman's Broadway musicals include Sweet Charity, Barnum, On the 20th Century, The Life, Little Me, Wildcat and The Will Rogers Follies, among others. The Bergmans' songs over the years include "The Windmills of Your Mind," "The Way We Were" and the songs for "Yentl" and the Broadway musical, Ballroom. As its L.A. subtitle — "a new kind of musical" — suggested, "it's different," Coleman said.
"It was born out of different circumstances [than a regular commercial musical]," Coleman explained. "It was born by the Kennedy Center calling up the Bergmans and saying, 'We'd like you to write a cycle of jazz songs for a concert.' They came to me, and we said, 'First of all, what is a jazz song, anyway?' Is it 'Lullaby of Birdland'? Or is it 'How High the Moon' and 'All the Things You Are'? It's a complex question when you're sitting down to write a cycle."
What the collaborators ending up writing was not just a cycle of jazz songs, but a show "about the jazz world," Coleman said.
"About the people who inhabit it," he offered. "About the people who play in it. About the lives of the musicians, the managers, the people who hang out in the bars. It became about jazz."
The show is hard to define, Coleman said.
"Every time you do something different it's hard to define," he said. "It is bound together by the feeling of jazz, the landscape of jazz — of the jazz world and jazz people. It's not a book musical in a traditional sense."
At Mark Taper Forum, the creative team included Patricia Birch (musical staging and choreography), designers D. Martyn Bookwalter (scenery and lighting), Judith Dolan (costume), Jon Gottlieb & Philip G. Allen (sound), Marc I. Rosenthal (projection design). Musical director was Tom Kubis.
Coleman said the show featured the last arrangement master arranger-orchestrator Peter Matz wrote before his death.
Coleman's new musical, The Great Ostrovsky, written with Avery Corman, is currently having a world premiere at the Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia.