The Best Is Yet to Come: The Music of Cy Coleman -- Theater Review

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The world-premiere revue of "The Best Is Yet to Come: The Music of Cy Coleman, which salutes the Tony-winning Broadway composer (1929-2004), is a bona fide class act.

Coleman's wonderfully sophisticated oeuvre (including "Sweet Charity," "Seesaw" and many more) is duly honored via the tasteful, vibrant staging of conceiver-director David Zippel -- lyricist for Coleman's "City of Angels" --and the extraordinary talents of six performers: David Burnham, Jason Graae, Sally Mayes, Julia Murney, Billy Stritch and Lillias White.

During Coleman's years as a pop songwriter and subsequent tenure as a Broadway tunesmith, he worked with many fine lyricists (Carolyn Leigh, Betty Comden & Adolph Green and Dorothy Fields, to name a few). This show proves that Coleman had impeccable instincts in choosing collaborators, as the marvelous lyrics -- packed with artistry and astute observations on human nature -- perfectly mesh with the jazzy melodies and traditional showtunes. Lorin Latarro's exquisite choreography, Don Sebesky's lush orchestrations and a chic design effort further enhance this consummately crafted enterprise.

Among the most thrilling moments was the rapturous response White deservedly elicited when she performed "The Oldest Profession" from her Tony-winning Broadway portrayal in "The Life." This sassy, dynamic performer is in peak form here as well as in her scintillating duet with Stritch (who also serves as piano accompanist, music supervisor and arranger) of the comic titular song from "Little Me." Stritch is a top-flight crooner as well, especially evident in the solos "It Amazes Me" and "Some Kind of Music."

The resplendent voices of Mayes and Murney, coupled with their expert ability to bring out the drama in their songs, provide showstopping turns. Mayes' "With Every Breath I Take" (from "City of Angels") is indeed breathtaking, and her spirited duet with Graae to "The Measure of Love" is hilarious. Murney sizzles in the torch ballad "Come Summer" and exuberantly leads her co-stars in a smashingly fresh rendition of "Hey, Look Me Over" (originated by Lucille Ball in "Wildcat").

In a lovely rendition of the haunting "Witchcraft," Graae makes us forget this is a signature Sinatra song. The charismatic Burnham creates magic in his heart-wrenching delivery of "I'd Give the World."

As the conclusion of this spectacular evening draws near, those fretting that Coleman's best-known numbers, including "If My Friends Could See Me Now," might be overlooked, should remind themselves of this show's very apt title. A New York production seems inevitable.

Venue: Rubicon Theatre, Ventura, Calif.
Cast: David Burnham, Jason Graae, Sally Mayes, Julia Murney, Billy Stritch, Lillias White
Music: Cy Coleman
Lyrics: Marilyn and Alan Bergman, Ira Gasman, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Dorothy Fields, Peggy Lee, Carolyn Leigh, Joseph McCarthy, Michael Stewart, David Zippel
Director: David Zippel
Choreographer: Lorin Latarro
Orchestrations: Don Sebesky
Music supervisor/arranger: Billy Stritch
Set designer: Douglas W. Schmidt
Costume designer: William Ivey Long
Lighting designer: Michael Gilliam
Sound designer: Jonathan Burke
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