(On piano) Billy Stritch; (Back) Howard McGillin and David Burnham; (Front) Lillias White, Sally Mayes and Rachel York in The Best is Yet to Come: The Music of Cy Coleman. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
BOTTOM LINE: Good old-fashioned entertainment to the tune of one of Broadway’s masters -- you’ll be tapping your foot and singing along to some of your musical favorites.
I must admit that since passing the drinking age there has rarely been a time in my life that I have actually wished that I was older. And yet after seeing The Best Is Yet to Come: the Music of Cy Coleman, I harbored an almost nostalgic feeling of yearning toward a period of time -- namely Broadway of the 1960s, '70s and '80s -- through which I didn’t live. This masterful recollection of Cy Coleman’s classical tunes carries much of the energy, sassiness and razzle-dazzle that has come to characterize our common notions of Broadway, and even Manhattan itself. The traditional eight piece band, the sparkle and class of the cast, and the black, white and silver set, are all reminiscent of the musicals which Cy Coleman brought to life with his work, and with which David Zippel, the director of the show, gives him a deserving homage.
Cy Coleman (1929 – 2004), a prolific and iconic composer and native New Yorker, had numerous successes on Broadway including City of Angles (which won six Tony awards and started a long-term collaboration with David Zippel), and Little Me (also a recipient of several Tony awards). Together with lyricist Carolyn Leigh, he also composed memorable songs such as "The Best is Yet to Come" and "Witchcraft," which have both been chiseled into the annals of classic pop songs by Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. So it is not surprising that during most of this show, you’ll find yourself swaying and humming to these Broadway favorites, while likely repressing the urge to jump out of your seat and join the cast on stage.
The Best Is Yet to Come is a revue of Coleman’s work and consists of an band and a cast of six performers who tirelessly flock on and off the stage singing and dancing to the music. While choreography plays a considerable role in the production and the actors present some discernable character traits, this show is more like a collection of songs than a musical since it lacks any obvious dramatic structure or plot. Zippel brings together a star-studded cast which includes Lillias White, Billy Stritch, Sally Mayes, Howards McGillin, Rachel York and David Burnham. All seasoned Broadway actors, the cast perfectly incarnates the energy and personality you would expect in a representation of Coleman’s work. Billy Stritch, as pianist, musical director, and performer, has a transfixing presence with his charm and natural chemistry with the rest of the cast. One of the highlights of the evening is when Stritch accompanies Lillias White on the piano, as she sings "The Oldest Profession" from the Tony Award winning musical The Life, where she comically portrays a sassy worn-out prostitute who is growing a little too old for the trade.
While giving a sense of intimacy, the small theatre can, at times, seem crowded, especially when all the actors are on stage along with the musicians. This, in conjunction with the lightning pace of the show (it lasts a little under 90 minutes and has 32 songs) means that there is often little time for more than a quick shuffle in between the melodies, which sometimes seems rushed. Even though the cast does an excellent job recreating the different moods evoked by the lyrics and music of the songs while keeping the energy high, perhaps the show could benefit from more temperate pacing.
The Best Is Yet to Come has all the ingredients for a memorable experience, even if you aren't that familiar with Cy Coleman's work. If you are looking for some good old-fashioned Broadway entertainment then this show is a sure thing. For those of you lucky enough to have lived through the time when these Broadway favorites were introduced, be prepared for a night of nostalgia and delight. I spent most of the 90 minutes wearing a child-like smile on my face, and an occasional glance around indicated that I was certainly not the only one.
(The Best is Yet to Come: The Music of Cy Coleman plays in a limited run until July 3, 2011 at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street. Performances are Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7PM, Fridays at 8PM, Saturdays at 2PM and 8PM, and Sundays at 3PM and 7PM. There is no performance at 7PM on Sunday, June 12th and there is an added matinee performance on Wednesday, June 8th at 2PM. Tickets are $65. To purchase tickets call Ticket Central at 212.279.4200 or visit www.59e39.org)