Will Cy Coleman Revue Best Is Yet to Come Shine in NYC?

News   Will Cy Coleman Revue Best Is Yet to Come Shine in NYC?
 
The Best Is Yet to Come, the revue of Cy Coleman songs that premiered in summer 2009 under the direction of the late composer's collaborator David Zippel, recently picked up awards in southern California. But will Come come east?

The Santa Barbara Independent's Indy Awards for theatre recognized the show in two categories: Zippel was cited for his direction of the production by Rubicon Theatre Company, and Tony Award winner Lillias White (and a 2010 nominee for her work in Fela!) won for her performance. Zippel accepted his award in person at the late May ceremony.

For her work in The Best Is Yet to Come, White had previously been nominated by the L.A. Ovation Awards, in the category of Lead Actress in a Musical. Billy Stritch got Ovation nominations for his arrangements/musical direction.

Zippel told Playbill.com on June 10 that he's in talks about a future New York City life for the show — which pulls from the vast Broadway, film and pop catalog of Coleman — but said there were no firm plans for a production. "We are still working to bring it in," Zippel said.

The year 2009 came and went without a hoopla about the 80th anniversary of the birth of Bronx-born Tony Award winner Coleman. New York would seem to be the place for a fresh look at his old (and untested new) songs: He played jazz Manhattan clubs in the 1950s and '60s, wrote songs for Off-Broadway revues and penned scores for the Broadway musicals Little Me, Wildcat, Sweet Charity, Seesaw, I Love My Wife, On the Twentieth Century, Barnum, City of Angels, The Life and The Will Rogers Follies, among others.

Coleman's hits include "Big Spender," "Withcraft," "Firefly," "Hey, Look Me Over!," "If My Friends Could See Me Now," "The Best Is Yet to Come" and more. The California world premiere of The Best Is Yet to Come, devised and directed by his pal and collaborator Zippel, played the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura, CA, July 9-Aug. 2, 2009. The starry cast included David Burnham, Jason Graae, Sally Mayes, Julia Murney, Billy Stritch and Tony Award winner Lillias White.

Zippel is the Tony Award-winning lyricist of Tony-winning composer Coleman's City of Angels and Pamela's First Musical. They were also working on other shows before Coleman's death in 2004.

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Here's how Rubicon billed the show: "In a career spanning seven decades, Cy Coleman created a glittering string of standards and popular music classics, as well as…City of Angels, Sweet Charity, Barnum, The Life, Little Me, On the Twentieth Century and Will Rogers Follies. …Zippel pays homage to Coleman with an elegant new musical revue performed by six singers accompanied by an eight-piece swing band. The sparkling score includes as-yet unpublished Coleman works, as well as songs made famous by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Barbara Streisand."

The Best Is Yet to Come (the title is drawn from a lyric by Carolyn Leigh) had musical direction, musical supervision and vocal arrangements by Billy Stritch, orchestrations by Don Sebesky and choreography by Lorin Latarro. Assistant musical director was Christopher Marlowe.

Lillias White won the Tony as Best Lead Actress in a Musical for Coleman's The Life. Sally Mayes (Urban Cowboy, Closer Than Ever) starred in Coleman's 1989 Broadway musical Welcome to the Club, about divorce. As previously reported on Playbill.com, The Best is Yet to Come dipped into the deep well of Coleman's catalog, offering classic and obscure numbers he wrote with a variety of lyricists, including Carolyn Leigh, Dorothy Fields, Comden and Green, Michael Stewart, Zippel and others.

"His body of work was so extraordinary it would be exciting to see it in revue form, and I had had talked to Cy about it years ago," Zippel previously told Playbill.com. "He told me: 'That's for after I'm gone; let's write something new.'"

Zippel, who, with Coleman, also wrote the yet-to-be produced comic Napoleon musical, N, contacted the composer's widow, Shelby, and she enthusiastically agreed to move forward with a revue, the lyricist said.

Zippel said The Best is Yet to Come was divided between Coleman's pop standards (think "Witchcraft" or the title song), show music (Sweet Charity, Little Me, Seesaw, Barnum, I Love My Wife and more) and past Carolyn Leigh obscurities or songs that have yet to dawn.

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Coleman, a native New Yorker, was born Seymour Kaufman. He played classical music at Carnegie Hall and Town Hall as a child, but as an adult heard the siren call of jazz, pop and theatre music and never looked back. Working with the lyricist Carolyn Leigh in his early writing career in the late 1950s and '60s, he penned such hits as "Witchcraft," "The Best Is Yet to Come," "You Fascinate Me So" and "When in Rome."

Leigh and Coleman would venture into the musical theatre, writing the scores to the Lucille Ball vehicle Wildcat (which offered the tune "Hey, Look Me Over!") and Little Me (which boasted "Real Live Girl" and "I've Got Your Number"). There was friction in the relationship. Pianist Coleman and his Cy Coleman Trio were playing engagements around the country, and Leigh wanted him to stay put in New York and focus on writing musicals.

Though Coleman did settle down to a theatre-writing life, he and Leigh did not write another show. With the legendary lyricist Dorothy Fields, he wrote "Where Am I Going?," "If My Friends Could See Me Now," "Big Spender" and "There's Gotta Be Something Better Than This" for Sweet Charity, Bob Fosse and Neil Simon's 1966 reimagining of Federico Fellini's "Nights of Cabiria." In the musical fable, Gwen Verdon starred as a dance hall hostess named Charity Hope Valentine (in the film, Cabiria is a prostitute).

The show's second Broadway revival (Fosse staged it in 1987) surfaced in 2004-05, months after Coleman's death.

Jason Graae, Julia Murney, Lillias White, Sally Mayes, Billy Stritch and David Burnham
Jason Graae, Julia Murney, Lillias White, Sally Mayes, Billy Stritch and David Burnham
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