1981 Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee Cy Coleman’s accomplishments include winning Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Score in consecutive years for “City of Angels” in 1990 and “The Will Rogers Follies” in 1991.
Coleman has been turning out distinguished Broadway musicals for three decades. His first major hit score, in 1962, was for “Wildcat.” The show brought Lucille Ball to her first starring role in a Broadway musical and produced the memorable “Hey, Look Me Over,” which in addition to its status as a wonderful standard, became a theme song for many political campaigns as well as cities and towns, colleges and universities across the land.
Other Broadway smashes from Cy Coleman abound. Two years after “Wildcat,” there was “Little Me,” starring the incredible comedian, Sid Caesar, and producing such hit songs as “I’ve Got Your Number” and “Real Live Girl,” “Sweet Charity,” starring Gwen Verdon, and again including its share of major hit songs, such as “Big Spender” and “If My Friends Could See Me Now.” The show also “played The Palace,” resurrecting the venerable Broadway landmark after years of inactivity.
During the ‘70s, other Coleman Broadway attainments included “On the Twentieth Century,” a musical version of the Carole Lombard/John Barrymore film of the ‘30s; “Seesaw,” producing one of tlie earlier showcases for the talents of Tommy Tune and Michele Lee; and “I Love My Wife,” scoring not only on Broadway, but in many countries throughout the world. Coleman also enjoyed a coup with the show, “Barnum,” which marked his debut as a producer as well as composer of the score. The show also helped launch Jim Dale as a major Broadway name, as well as Glenn Close’s movie career, the same Glenn Close who has now returned to Broadway as the star of “Sunset Boulevard.”
Cy Coleman’s pre-Broadway career brought its share of highlights as well. It all began when, between the tender ages of six and nine, he was to be heard with some regularity playing the piano in Carnegie Hall, Town Hall and Steinway Hall. During the ‘50s, he played solo piano and with groups in many clubs around the Manhattan circuit and became a successful songwriter with such credits as “Witchcraft,” “The Best Is Yet to Come,” “Why Try to Change Me Now,” “I’m Gonna Laugh You Out of My Life” and “It Amazes Me,” among others. Many of these Coleman songs have been recorded by a host of the mightiest names in music, including Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Liza Minnelli, Barbra Streisand, Peggy Lee, Lena Home, Ella Fitzgerald and numerous others.
Coleman also enjoyed a special association with Shirley MacLaine. In 1974, he conceived and wrote (with Robert Wells) her TV special, “If My Friends Could See Me Now,” which brought Coleman a pair of Emmy Awards; and in 1976, the musical “Gypsy in My Soul,” producing Emmys for both Coleman and Ms. MacLaine.
Cy Coleman managed to find time for film work as well. He scored the music for such films as “Father Goose,” “Power,” “Garbo Talks,” “Family Business” and “Sweet Charity,” for which he won an Oscar nomination. Coleman was also honored with a star-studded tribute at Avery Fisher Hall and the Irvin Fold Humanitarian Award from The National Conference of Christians and Jews. In 1992, it should also be noted, he won two Grammy Awards for his score and for producing the original cast album for “The Will Rogers Follies,” which went on to become a long-term resident of the best-selling charts.
Cy Coleman also was the recipient of a Doctorate in Music from Long Island University in 1994.