Reviewed by Judy Richter
Broadway by the Bay has closed out its 44th season with "Broadway Up Close and Personal: A Tribute to Cy Coleman." This revue of the Tony Award-winning ("The Will Rogers Follies") composer's works was moderated by Michael Kerker, director of musical theater for ASCAP, who was soon joined by Tony-winning lyricist and author David Zippel. With musical director Christopher Marlowe at the piano, it was a somewhat casual yet carefully planned evening.
It opened with a 1959 film clip of Coleman at the piano at the Playboy Jazz Club in Chicago singing his "Witchcraft," thus illustrating that he wrote stand-alone standards as well as show tunes. Then four talented musical theater performers -- Judith Blazer, Jason Graae, Donna McKechnie and Sharon Wilkins -- sang songs from such Coleman shows as "Seesaw," "Little Me," "On the Twentieth Century," "City of Angels," "Sweet Charity," "The Life," "Barnum," "Wildcat" and "Like Jazz."
Another film clip about halfway through the approximately 100-minute, one-act show featured a sexy "Hey, Big Spender" from the film version of "Sweet Charity." Yet another clip, Kerker's interview with Coleman in his later years, helped to wind up the evening.
Zippel, who worked on "City of Angels" with Coleman, also sang "The Critics Song" from "Pamela's First Musical," a show that he and Coleman were developing with playwright Wendy Wasserstein.TheatreWorks of Palo Alto was planning to produce it, but Coleman died in 2004, and she died in 2006. The project was put on hold until Zippel decided to present it as a benefit concert in New York in 2008.
The evening's standout performer at Broadway By the Bay was McKechnie, who sang a moving version of "Where Am I Going?" from "Sweet Charity." Later, she sang an energetic "If My Friends Could See Me Now," also from "Sweet Charity." This time, she displayed some of the star power and a hint of the dancing that marked her memorable, Tony-winning performance as Cassie in "A Chorus Line."
The entire evening moved quickly and provided a fitting tribute and overview of Coleman's genius and versatility.