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NY Theater Reviews

David Burnham and Howard McGillin/ Ph: Carol Rosegg



This tribute revue of Cy Coleman's work packs a punch of heavy-hitting vocalists and former collaborators, with a couple of new songs as well.

When a performer replicates the most brilliant facet of a Tony-winning role, you go. Midway through The Best Is Yet to Come: The Music of Cy Coleman, Lillias White takes a seat, as she had on Broadway, and brings the house down with an electrifyingly funny revival of “The Oldest Profession,” her legendary lament about prostitution, from The Life. In a show chockfull of fabulous moments, that was the undisputed highlight, and audience reaction is predictably tumultuous upon its return.
In this revue (an import from California’s Rubicon Theatre Company) “The Oldest Profession” is just one gem among many. The production has been devised and directed by David Zippel, whose big break came when Cy Coleman took him on as lyricist for City of Angels. By this time Coleman was a living legend, with pop hits like the title tune and “Witchcraft,” and shows including Little Me, Sweet Charity and On the Twentieth Century, under his belt. When Zippel later asked him if he wanted to collaborate on a revue, Coleman refused, saying, “That’s for after I’m gone. Let’s write something new!”
And so they did, and so some of this work is premiering in this show, giving both men what they wanted. The new songs fit in smoothly, which proves one thing: If you had lyrics dripping with sex and money, you needed Coleman to bring them to musical life. On a big band-type set, White is in good company onstage, what with the formidable David Burnham, Sally Mayes, Howard McGillin and Rachel York joining her in various combinations, and Billy Stritch, another Coleman collaborator, at the piano. But they’re all upstaged when the audience members recognize the first note of, say, “Big Spender” or “If My Friends Could See Me Now” and begin tapping their toes and rocking in their seats.
Red hair in full flame, York is a delight performing “Hey, Look Me Over” and “The Doodling Song” in tandem, and joining the charming Mayes for “What You Don’t Know about Women.” McGillin brings a high comic style to “You Fascinate Me So,” while Burnham lives up to the title of “I’ve Got Your Number.” In 85 briskly paced minutes these pros don’t squander a single opportunity to entertain.
This all said, the theater critic in me wanted more about the star of the show, other than a single faded projection that appears toward the end. But that is what books, cast albums and the Internet are for. Zippel has chosen to let Coleman speak to us solely through his music, and there is much brass and sass in this telling.