The gifted Broadway composer Cy Coleman was born on this day in 1929. Before writing for the stage, Mr. Coleman (1929-2004) made several memorable contributions to the Great American Songbook, including “Witchcraft” and “The Best Is Yet To Come.” But he is best known for his many wonderful Broadway scores, with hit shows spanning nearly five decades.
In celebration of Mr. Coleman, we’ve put together a little quiz:
How many of these Cy Coleman shows can you name?
12 shows in all — we’ve provided some pictures and a few hints. Scroll down for the answers at the bottom. (Warning: clicking hyperlinks will give away the answers!) Enjoy!
1. Let’s start with a big one: this hit musical, featuring a book by Neil Simon and lyrics by Dorothy Field, was inspired by Federico’s Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria, and explored the hapless love life of a incurably romantic dance-hall hostess. The original 1966 production, directed by Bob Fosse and starring Gwen Verdon, earned nine Tony nominations. The 1969 film version starred Shirley MacLaine, and Broadway revivals starred Debbie Allen (1986) and Christina Applegate (2005). The show boasted several hit songs, including “If They Could See Me Now” and “Big Spender.”
2. Cy Coleman’s very first Broadway musical opened in 1960, starring Lucille Ball in her only Broadway performance. With a book by N. Richard Nash and lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, the show introduced the hit song “Hey, Look Me Over.”
3. Coleman’s next show was based on a novel by Patrick Dennis, author of Auntie Mame. Directed by Cy Feuer with a book by Neil Simon and Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, the 1962 show followed the farcical exploits of the fictional Belle Poitrine as she sought wealth, romance, and social position. The original production featured Sid Caesar in multiple roles. In a 1982 revival, Victor Garber and James Coco split those roles, but in 1998, Martin Short again played them all.
4. In 1973, Coleman continued his collaboration with Leigh, this time with director/book writer Michael Bennett (and ghost doctor Neil Simon), on an adaptation of William Gibson’s play, Two for the _______. The musical, starring Michelle Lee and Ken Howard, also featured Tommy Tune in a balloon-festooned high-energy dance number.
5. A bit of trivia: Cy Coleman also composed music for the Broadway production of this landmark play by Peter Shaffer. The haunting 1974 straight play was inspired by a crime involving a 17-year-old boy who blinded six horses in a small town near Suffolk, England. (Harry Potter‘s Daniel Radcliffe starred in a 2007 London/ 2008 Broadway revival, but that production did not use Coleman’s music.)
6. Here’s a tough one: in 1977, Coleman collaborated with Michael Stewart on this satire of the sexual revolution, in which two couples contemplate a ménage-à-quatre.
7. Coleman found inspiration on the work of Sigmund Romberg and Rudolf Friml in his comic operetta of 1978, a screwball comedy set on a luxury train. With book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, the show featured Madeline Kahn as its tempestuous leading lady. Kristen Chenoweth took on the role in a 2015 Broadway revival.
8. Starring Jim Dale as The Greatest Showman on Earth, this 1980 musical, with lyrics by Michael Stewart and book by Mark Bramble, opened with “There’s A Sucker Born Ev’ry Minute.” A rollicking depiction of circus life, the show also featured a lovely central romance between the leading man and his wife Charity, played by Glenn Close. Coleman’s other hit songs included “Join The Circus” and “The Colors of My Life.”
9. Another tough one: with a run of only twelve performances, this 1989 musical set in a New York City jail for alimony violators featured belter Sally Mayes in her Broadway debut.
10. Coleman’s other 1989 offering dazzled audiences and critics alike. With Coleman’s tuneful, sophisticated jazz score, David Zippel’s brilliant lyrics, and Larry Gelbart’s ingenious book, this musical took home 6 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Score. Featuring a 1940s Hollywood writer and the tough gumshoe he created, the show celebrated film noir with a set and costumes that were full color on stage right, black & white on stage left. Frank Rich of the New York Times called Coleman’s score “a delirious celebration of jazz and pop styles sumptuously orchestrated by Billy Byers.” Gregg Edelman and James Naughton starred as writer Stine and detective Stone, with Randy Graff famously belting out “You Can Always Count On Me.”
11. In 1991, Coleman’s work again won Best Musical and Best Score at the Tony Awards. This recreation of a Flo Ziegfeld show told the story of a famed American humorist, performer, and cowboy. With a bevy of chorus girls, some impressive rope tricks, and a sprinkling of homespun humor, the show explored the man who famously said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” Keith Carradine, Dee Hoty and Cady Huffman starred, and Tommy Tune directed, with lyrics by Comden & Green and book by Peter Stone.
12. Coleman’s 1997 musical, with lyrics by Ira Gasman and a book co-written with David Newman, explored the seamy experience of the prostitutes, pimps, and drug dealers in the garish Times Square of the mid-1980s. Featuring knockout performances by Pamela Isaacs, Chuck Cooper, and Lillias White, the show earned 11 Tony nominations, with Cooper and White both coming up winners. The gritty, honest portrait of the characters’ daily struggle was a far cry from the sunny depiction of a “dance hall hostess” in Coleman’s famous 1966 show, and Coleman’s pop/R&B score further illustrated his astonishing versatility.
Well, that’s a dozen shows scored by a true master. How many did you know?
1. SWEET CHARITY
3. LITTLE ME
6. I LOVE MY WIFE
7. ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
9. WELCOME TO THE CLUB
10. CITY OF ANGELS
11. THE WILL ROGERS FOLLIES
12. THE LIFE
Happy Birthday, Cy Coleman. And thank you for your music!