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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
The Best is Yet to Come: The Music of Cy Coleman

I'm an individualist, I feel, my own kind of man. What created Cy Coleman? . . .It's playing in jazz clubs, doing the society bit, accompanying people, being a concert pianist. I think you'd have to put it all in a Cuisinart and mix that up, and out would come Cy Coleman.— Cy Coleman from Notes on Broadway: Intimate Conversations with Broadway's Greatest Songwriters by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn.
Lillias White and Billy Stritch (Photo: Carol Rosegg)
The title of this revue saddens me even if the rest of the performance &mdash a few melancholy songs notwithstanding —does not. Composer Cy Coleman died in 2004 at the age of 75. Judging solely by his body of work, the composer of Sweet Charity,, Little Me, On the Twentieth Century etc. led a highly musical and most prolific life.

Indeed Coleman did write a song called "The Best is Yet to Come" (now 50 years old) which makes for an apt title of a revue of Coleman's work, a good kickoff number and a promise for the remainder of the performance. Yes, some good stuff is coming down the pike from musical director Billy Stritch, his seven piece ensemble and the six member ensemble. Even so, Coleman was still writing new material at the time of his death leaving Like Jazz his last major work.

David Zippel, Coleman's lyricist for City of Angels has assembled a selection of Coleman's most notable songs, a few previously unheard and crafted a soaring celebration to his co-worker and friend. The director apparently floated an idea for a revue to Coleman himself several years back, only to have the composer reply, "That's for after I'm gone. Let's write something new!"

It's largely a strong selection that Zippel, Stritch and orchestrator Don Sebesky have chosen. City of Angels is, naturally, well represented (though "You're Nothing Without Me" gets appallingly short shrift) as are The Life and Sweet Charity and Little Me. The lineup boasts a veritable boatload of love songs, the more swelling and emotion-soaked the better.

The three man, three woman balance works nicely (with pianist Stritch doing plenty of singing), and the ensemble is a blend of younger and seasoned performers.These include Tom Lowe (stepping in for Jason Graae, who contracted to perform previews and opening weekend only), budding leading man David Burnham, Sally Mayes, and the terrifically torchy Julia Murney. The wild card, as usual, is Lillias White, a Tony award winner for The Life who can still pack decades of weariness &mdash to say nothing of vocal oomph &mdash into the medly "Never Met a Man" and "Oldest Profession." ("Never Met a Man" is actually from The Will Rodgers Follies, but it gets a rather different spin from the mouth of a world weary prostitute.) All of the ladies, in fact, get their empowerment say-so in a series of songs ("Nobody Does it Like Me," "You can Always Count on Me," "What You Don't Know About Women") that seem thematically repetitive despite being written 17 years apart and by different lyricists. Murney should leave no heart unbroken with the beautiful 1971 song "Come Summer" and Lowe and Mayes have a lusty good time with the affection/pain anthem "The Measure of Love." "The Measure of Love" is a professional premiere along with "Only the Rest of My Life" (a bittersweet duet between Burnham and Murney), "I'd Give the World" and "Never Enough." Each of the numbers, written with Zippel as lyricist, are from the early 2000s, and it is indeed a pity they seem destined not to find their way into a book musical.

With the Rubicon stage being small and crowded by musicians, the performers have to be economical in their use of dance steps, so no big Fosse-esque turns here from Charity. The setting for the majority of interludes seems to be a street somewhere or, later a nightclub, and it's in the latter that Stritch gets to show off his fingerwork in the full ensemble number "Those Hands." The pianist is also in fine voice both during the solo "It Amazes Me" (a simple schmo celebrating his good fortune to be beloved) and in "Little Me," a duet with White.

For this world premiere, the team has employed the services of some fairly heavyweight technicians for costumes (William Ivey Long), scenery (Douglas W Scmidt) and lighting (Michael Gilliam). Between cast, crew and creatives, The Best is Yet to Come has something like 32 Tony awards. All the better to package up the musical works of a virtuoso.

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The Best is Yet to Come: The Music of Cy Coleman
Devised and Directed by David Zippel
Musical Direction by Billy Stritch
Choreographer: Lorin Latarro
Production Stage Manager: Christina M Burke Cast: David Burnham, Tom Lowe, Sally Mayes, Julia Murney, Billy Stritch, Lillias White
Set Design: Douglas W. Schmidt
Costume Design: William Ivey Long
Lighting Design: Michael Gilliam
Sound Design: Jonathan Burke
Running Time: 1 hours 30 minutes with no intermission
Rubicon Theatre, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura
From July 9 to August 2
Wed. @ 2 pm and 7pm, Thu.- Sat. @ 8 pm., Sat.-Sun @ 2 pm
Reviewed by Evan Henerson, based on July 22 performance.
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