The show got off to a rocky start with a bit of a sound problem. The 59E59 Theatre is a terrific space, unfortunately the 8-piece combo was overpowering the singers and to accommodate, the sound board operator brought the volume up too far. The sound from the speakers just overhead was distracting. Eventually they found their balance and the rest of the performance blended better.
The whole cast opens the show with the title song “The Best is Yet To Come” and quickly gets down to business. Sally Mayes gets the first solo of the evening with “Nobody Does It Like Me” from Seesaw, where she gets to show off her comedy chops. Before the evening is over she gives a commanding performance of the gorgeous ballad “With Every Breath I Take,” from City of Angels which Zippel wrote with Coleman.
Lillias White would have to be considered worth the price of admission alone. She starts with a sassy rendition of “Don’t Ask a Lady” from Little Me. Before she’s done she gives Coleman’s “Never Met a Man I Didn’t Like” from Will Rogers Follies a whole new meaning. She brings down the house with “The Oldest Profession,” from The Life and gets playful with musical director and fellow cast member Billy Stritch on “Little Me.”
Relative newcomer (though you wouldn’t know it from his performance) David Burnham grabs the spotlight with perhaps one of Coleman’s most famous songs, “Witchcraft.” Burnham is so relaxed on-stage; when he came out for “Big Spender” he and Howard McGillin had to each flip a coin, when it came his turn to flip his coin, he completely missed it but had the best time playing off the audience. On “Only the Rest of My Life” (a song making its professional debut) Burnham joins one-woman dynamo Rachel York in a stunning song. York reels the audience in with “Come Summer” and “The Doodling Song” while former “Phantom” Howard McGillin is suave and poised on “You Fascinate Me So” and the never-before-presented “I’d Give the World.”
Stritch himself went solo on “It Amazes Me” and “Some Kind of Music,” both of which were relatively quiet compared to much of the rest of the show. Both his singing and playing seem effortless and he has a bit of the Velvet Fog in his voice. His band was also extremely well rehearsed and the members themselves were having fun on stage. Stritch got to show off his dexterous fingers on “Those Hands” in which the cast joined him. For this number, director Zippel, in a seeming homage to Tommy Tune, has the cast in white gloves sitting in a line down center during the number playing air-piano a la “Our Favorite Son.” Poor Sally Mayes has to segue from this rollicking number into the more decidedly down-beat “It Started With a Dream,” a Coleman song never sung in a show before. Poor Mayes was so out of breath that settling into “...Dream” required some serious heavy breaths between the two numbers. That said, Zippel has beautifully stitched Mr. Coleman’s songs together into a coherent, flowing homage to a musical great and his contribution to the “songs of the heart” catalog.
The show sports a sparkly set by Douglas W. Schmidt, colorful costumes by a man who must need a vacation, William Ivey Long and colorfully-coordinated lighting by Michael Gilliam.
To describe Cy Coleman as prolific seems inadequate. He won Tonys, Emmys and Grammys and his songs were recorded by Sinatra, Bennett, Streisand and others. The Best is Yet to Come: The Music of Cy Coleman beautifully presents Coleman’s varied and tuneful songs. This is a big, brassy production (sometimes too much so for the small space) but one I encourage you not to miss.