Saturday, July 18, 2009

review - Cy Coleman revue @ Rubicon in Ventura

The Best Is Yet To Come:
The Music of Cy Coleman
directed by David Zippel
musical direction: Billy Stritch
Rubicon Theatre, Ventura
through August 2
In Cy Coleman's Seesaw, Gittel Mosca bemoans screwing up her chances for happiness. Coleman cherished the female underdog. Gittel. Charity in Sweet Charity and Sonja in The Life are three examples of ordinary hard-working gals who helped elevate Coleman's upbeat songs to majestic heights. Finally, composer Coleman is getting is due, as audiences agree that "Nobody Does It Like Cy". The Rubicon Theatre in Ventura presents an exhilarating world premiere revue The Best Is Yet to Come celebrating the genius that is Cy Coleman.
Six artists of incomparable range under the ingenious direction of David Zippel make us laugh and cry as they sing to the very depths of the soul. Jason Graae, Billy Stritch, David Burnham are the men; Lillias White, Sally Mayes, and Julia Murney, the ladies. Unlike most revues that slow down to a snail's pace and shift gears to suit the musical arrangement, this piece builds an engaging momentum that keeps climbing upward. There is no dialogue; everything is told via the music. And with that music, there is never a dull or superfluous moment. White's showstopping "Oldest Profession", Stritch's "It Amazes Me", Murney's glorious "Come Summer", Graae's "Witchcraft", Mayes' "With Every Breath I Take", Burnham's "I've Got Your Number" all move, as do the duets like Stritch and White's "Little Me", Graae and Mayes' "The Measure of Love".
It is to Zippel's credit that there are full renditions of lesser known songs and that the medleys are sparse. There is one fast-paced mix at the end, wrapping up hits with a bow like "If My Friends Could See Me Now", "I'm Nothing Without You", "It's Not Where You Start, It's Where You Finish" and "Hey There Good Times".
The understated finale "It Started with a Dream" with Coleman's image projected above for a limited few moments is tasteful and restrained.
The background set of a blownup piano and keys with a staircase separating members of the onstage terrific 8-piece orchestra by Douglas W. Schmidt adds a touch of class.
This is a lovely, beautifully directed and performed evening of theatre that ensures Cy Coleman's place among la creme de la creme of American songwriters.
5 out of 5 stars
PS The evening continued at the after party at the Ventura Marriot Beach Hotel where guest and Cy Coleman friend Liza Minnelli treated the audience to "He's Funny That Way" with her pal Billy Stritch accompanying her on piano. Liza was so gracious. After Lillias White's number in the show, she was the first to rise up and give White a standing ovation. Liza loves good theatre, loves to support others...and she's looking and sounding better than she has in years. What a double treat this evening was!!


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