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The Best Is Yet to Come

The Best Is Yet to Come
Lillias White, Billy Stritch, Jason Graae, David Burnham and Julia Murney
The time is right for The Best is Yet to Come: The Music of Cy Coleman. Not only is the plotless single-act inexpensive (six cast members, with one (Billy Stritch) doubling as musical director, on a single set with a single costume change), the show hits just the right tone for the times. It's occasionally a bit wistful, but mostly it's a cheerful, upbeat celebration of Coleman's music and it leaves audiences feeling solidly entertained.

The song list in the program might throw you. Few of Coleman's established hits appear to be represented here. (Although the juxtaposition of "Never Met a Man I Didn't Like" with "Oldest Profession" certainly gives an unexpected new meaning to the former.) Some numbers you'd anticipate seeing, like "Big Spender" and "I'm Nothing Without You," are present, but hidden in medleys. Others aren't there at all. Barnum, I noted, was completely unrepresented. Though program listed "The Colors of My Life" as part the promised eleven-song "Mega Mix" encore, the mix performed had only a handful of songs (a mini mega mix?), with the result that some songs you'd expect to see in a Coleman review just weren't here.

But the songs that are here—some musical theatre, some cabaret classics, and some previously unheard—come off as nothing short of delightful. And the show's creator/director, David Zippel, is careful to give every cast member a chance to do what they do best. Julia Murney is splendid in all that she does, whether having fun with "Hey, Look Me Over" and "The Doodling Song" or with her beautiful rendition of the ballad, "Come Summer," where she feels every word. Lillias White is letter- and gesture-perfect with "The Oldest Profession," although one wonders if she's so practiced on that number that it's exactly the same every performance. But White is more than a one-trick pony, and she delivers on jazzy numbers like "Don't Ask a Lady" and "Those Hands." Sally Mayes scores with everything from the self-mocking "Nobody Does it Like Me" to the torch song, "With Every Breath I Take."

Mayes also shares the adorable (yet difficult) duet "The Measure of Love" with Jason Graae, a paean to the joys of physical and emotional pain. (It wasn't until they sang about how "sometimes the measure of love is in the pleasure of pain" that I remembered that the Rubicon Theatre is located in a converted church.) Graae brings his trademark impish comedy to the proceedings—while his vocal on "You Fascinate Me So" is sweetly seductive, it is partnered with a humorous staging where he tries to charm all three women at once.

David Burnham also has a strong voice, although he doesn't instill his songs with quite the same character as some of the others in the cast. He sings "I've Got Your Number" to White; she goes through a whole book of reactions under his adoration, but he shows only a megawatt smile. (And in his duet with Murney, "Only the Rest of My life," he rather annoyingly starts the number with his hands in his pockets, which doesn't seem to match the passion of the piece.) As Stritch is confined behind the piano during his songs, his delivery is limited to a lounge-singer style. Personally, I would have preferred a sixth performer with a more musical theatre sensibility, although the Sunday matinee crowd at the Rubicon responded enthusiastically to his "It Amazes Me." (Note on that particular number: the seven-member band backs up this show just fine, but the drummer's brushes on "It Amazes Me" sounded so loud, I thought I was listening to a scratchy record.)

It's clear that Zippel is still working on the show's structure. A few songs are in an order different from what is listed in the program (given how the songs in question are staged, I think the recent rearrangement was a good call), and, as previously noted, there's still work being done on the "Mega Mix." It isn't quite there yet, but overall, the song selections certainly show off Coleman's versatility and hummability—and also show that he has worked with several smart and witty lyricists. There's terrific talent in the songs and on the stage, and this world premiere musical—with a bit more tinkering —can certainly go places.

The Best is Yet to Come runs through August 2, 2009. For tickets and information, see www.rubicontheatre.org.

Rubicon Theatre Company and Michael Jackowitz in association with David Elzer, Barbara Meister - Barber Automotive Group and Loretta and Mike Merewether present The Best is Yet to Come: The Music of Cy Coleman. Music by Cy Coleman; Lyrics by Marilyn and Alan Bergman, Ira Gasman, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Dorothy Fields, Peggy Lee, Carolyn Leigh, Joseph McCarthy, Michael Stewart and David Zippel. Scenic Design by Douglas W. Schmidt; Costume Design by William Ivey Long; Lighting Design by Michael Gilliam; Sound Design by Jonathan Burke; Prop Design by T. Theresa Scarano; Hair and Makeup Design by David Reynoso; Production Stage Manager Christina M. Burck; Associate Musical Director Christopher Marlowe; Associate Choreographer Lee Wilkins; Assistant Costume Designer Cathy Parrott; Publicist David Elzer/DEMAND PR. Choreography by Lorin Latarro; Orchestrations by Don Sebesky; Music Supervision and Arrangements by Billy Stritch; Devised and Directed by David Zippel.

Cast:
David Burnham
Jason Graae
Sally Mayes
Julia Murney
Billy Stritch
Lillias White


Photo: Rod Lathim


- Sharon Perlmutter






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