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Theatre Review (Ventura, CA): The Best is Yet To Come: The Music of Cy Coleman

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Cy Coleman was described by the late critic Clive Barnes as “a permanent gem in Broadway’s crown.” That he was, having composed the Broadway scores for The Life, Little Me, Will Rogers Follies, Barnum, Sweet Charity, and City of Angels. One of his many collaborators was David Zippel.

Coleman gave Zippel his big break by hiring the unknown lyricist, who went on to a very prestigious career which continues to this day. Before Coleman died, Zippel had raised the possibility of creating a show featuring Coleman’s music, but Coleman told him to wait until he (Coleman) was gone.

Well, Zippel has kept his promise to the man who started his big-time career, by fashioning a show he calls The Best is Yet To Come, which, of course, is also the title of one of Coleman’s songs. Included in this review are not only songs from the Broadway shows, but also numerous jazzy numbers Coleman wrote for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Barbra Streisand. Zippel was familiar with the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura and decided it was the perfect place to launch this loving tribute.

The creative team has, among them, won 32 Tony Awards. Billy Strich, the musical director, is considered one of the premiere pianists in New York and on the national jazz scene. His expert playing and smooth style formed a great underpinning for the show.

The cast included David Burnham from the original Broadway cast of The Light in The Piazza; Sally Mayes, who made her Broadway debut in Coleman’s Welcome to the Club; and Julia Murney, who last appeared on Broadway as Elphaba in Wicked. Lillias White, who was in the original The Life (in a role Coleman wrote especially for her) and won numerous awards for her performance, including the Tony, was also a member of the cast, and brought the house down with her big solo from The Life. Rounding out the cast, subbing for Jason Graae, was Tom Lowe, who was so good in the recent Back to Bacharach. These are all extremely talented singers, and what a joy it was to hear them.

Zippel not only compiled the songs but also directed. I have seen several shows of this ilk which have fallen flat because of the arrangements (here done superbly by Don Sebesky), or awkward staging. Zippel kept things moving, though it would have been nice to see some sort of story told through the music. What we did get was a series of solos and musical exchanges between couples, terrific nonetheless.

The Best is Yet To Come played at the Rubicon Theatre and closed August 2nd.

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