Fourteen years after I saw her wow the audience singing "The Oldest Profession" in Cy Coleman and Ira Gassman's musical The Life, I was delighted to see Lillias White reprise that number in The Best Is Yet to Come: The Music of Cy Coleman, a smart, stylish Off-Broadway revue of Coleman's music, with lyrics by a number of his well-know collaborators. She seemed larger than life, putting that number over even more vividly and vibrantly than I'd remembered. That fully realized performance—as perfect a match of material and performer as you could ask for—was for me a high point of the night. White also scored big singing the jaunty "These Hands," offered as an homage to the fleet-fingered piano work of the show's musical director, Billy Stritch. And she and Stritch teamed nicely singing "Little Me." Directed by David Zippel (Coleman’s lyricst on City of Angles), this is a solidly professional revue, featuring such pros of Broadway and cabaret as Sally Mayes, Howard McGillin, Rachel York and David Burnham. Coleman's most celebrated numbers—including "Hey, Look Me Over," "It's Not Where You Start," and "Hey There Good Times"—are filled with life and darned near irresistible. And you may also find some welcome discoveries among the lesser-known songs (I liked "It Started with a Dream"). Stritch's piano playing is impeccable, and his eight-piece band, playing arrangements by Don Sebesky, impressed throughout. Minor flaws? I think the show should have made more use of Stritch as a singer—he swings, with a natural ease that really suits Coleman's music. He could have carried off "Witchcraft" better than David Burnham, who has fine pipes, but is a stiffer singer. Stritch's singing and playing evokes Cy Coleman's own jazz-tinged singing/playing. One other quibble: Coleman wrote so many memorable songs, I hated seeing any time wasted on his "A Doodling Song." Some novelties need not be exhumed.
(Pictured (L-R) Billy Stritch, Lillias White, Howard McGillin, Sally Mayes, David Burnham, Rachel York; Photo by Carol Rosegg)
July 7, 2011