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Cy Coleman

From Academic Kids

Cy Coleman (1929 - 2004) was an American composer, songwriter, and jazz pianist.

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He was born Seymour Kaufman on June 14, 1929 in New York City, and was raised in the Bronx. He was a child prodigy who gave piano recitals at Steinway Hall, Town Hall, and Carnegie Hall between the ages of six and nine. Before beginning his fabled Broadway career, he led the Cy Coleman Trio, which made many recordings and was a much-in-demand club attraction.

Despite the early classical and jazz success, he decided to build a career in popular music. His first collaborator was Joseph Allen McCarthy, but his most successful early partnership, albeit a turbulent one, was with Carolyn Leigh. The pair wrote many pop hits, including Witchcraft and The Best Is Yet To Come.

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Coleman's legacy
Coleman's winning streak as a Broadway composer began when the team collaborated on Wildcat (1960), which marked the Broadway debut of comedienne Lucille Ball. The score included the hit tune "Hey Look Me Over." When Ball was unable to cope with the rigors of eight performances a week, she left the cast, and the show soon folded. Up next for the two was Little Me, with a book by Neil Simon based on the novel by Patrick Dennis (Auntie Mame). The show introduced Real Live Girl and I've Got Your Number, which became popular standards.

In 1964, Coleman met Dorothy Fields at a party, and when he asked if she would like to collaborate with him, she is reported to have answered, "Thank God somebody asked." Fields was revitalised by working with the much younger Coleman, and by the contemporary nature of their first project, which was to become Sweet Charity, again with a book by Simon, and starring Gwen Verdon. The show was a major success and Coleman found working with Fields much easier than with Leigh. The partnership was to work on two more shows – an aborted project about Eleanor Roosevelt, and Seesaw which reached Broadway in 1973 after a troubled out-of-town tour. Despite mixed reviews, the show enjoyed a healthy run. The partnership was cut short by Fields' death in 1974.

Coleman remained prolific in the late 1970s. He collaborated on I Love My Wife (1977) with Michael Stewart, On The Twentieth Century (1978) with Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and Home Again, Home Again with Barbara Fried, although the latter never reached Broadway.

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Poster for City of Angels
In 1980, Coleman served as producer and composer for the circus-themed Barnum, which introduced theatergoers to Jim Dale and Glenn Close. Later in the decade, he collaborated on Welcome to the Club (1988) with A.E. Hotchner and City of Angels (1989) with David Zippel. In the latter, inspired by the hard-boiled detective film noir of the 1930s and '40s, he returned to his jazz roots, and the show was a huge critical and commercial success.

The 1990s brought more new Coleman musicals to Broadway: The Will Rogers Follies (1991), again with Comden and Green, The Life (1997), a gritty look at pimps, prostitutes, and assorted other lowlife in the big city, with Ira Gasman, and a revised production of Little Me.

Coleman's film scores include Father Goose, The Art of Love, Garbo Talks and Family Business. In addition, he wrote Shirley MacLaine's memorable television specials, If My Friends Could See Me Now and Gypsy in My Soul.

Coleman was on the ASCAP Board of Directors for many years and also served as their Vice Chairman Writer.

He died of heart failure on November 18, 2004. To the very end, he was part of the Broadway scene - just prior to passing away, he had attended the premiere of Michael Frayn's new play Democracy.

Awards and Nominations

  • 1997 Tony Award Best Book of a Musical The Life (nominee)
  • 1997 Tony Award Best Musical The Life (nominee)
  • 1997 Tony Award Best Original Musical Score The Life (nominee)
  • 1991 Tony Award Best Original Score The Will Rogers Follies (winner)
  • 1990 Tony Award Best Original Score City of Angels (winner)
  • 1980 Tony Award Best Musical Barnum (nominee)
  • 1980 Tony Award Best Original Score Barnum (nominee)
  • 1978 Tony Award Best Original Score On the Twentieth Century (winner)
  • 1977 Tony Award Best Original Score I Love My Wife (nominee)
  • 1974 Tony Award Best Original Score Seesaw (nominee)
  • 1966 Tony Award Best Composer and Lyricist Sweet Charity (nominee)
  • 1966 Tony Award Best Musical Sweet Charity (nominee)
  • 1963 Tony Award Best Composer and Lyricist Little Me (nominee)
  • 1963 Tony Award Best Musical Little Me (nominee)


He also won three Emmy Awards and two Grammy Awards, was elected to the Songwriter's Hall of Fame, and was the recipient of the Songwriter's Hall of Fame Johnny Mercer Award and The ASCAP Foundation Richard Rodgers Award for Lifetime Achievement in the American Musical Theater.de:Cy Coleman fr:Cy Coleman nl:Cy Coleman

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