He penned songs such as “Witchcraft” and “The Best Is Yet to Come” (signature tunes for Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, respectively) and wrote such musicals as Sweet Charity , I Love My Wife , On the Twentieth Century , and The Will Rogers Follies – yet his life has gone entirely unexplored until now. You Fascinate Me So takes readers into the world and work of Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award-winning composer/performer Cy Coleman, exploring his days as a child prodigy in the 1930s, his time as a hot jazz pianist and early television celebrity in the 1950s, and his life as one of Broadway's preeminent composers.
This first-time biography of Coleman has been written with the full cooperation of his estate, and it is filled with previously unknown details about his body of work. Additionally, interviews with colleagues and friends, including Marilyn and Alan Bergman, Ken Howard, Michele Lee, James Naughton, Bebe Neuwirth, Hal Prince, Chita Rivera, and Tommy Tune, provide insight into Coleman's personality and career.
Andy Propst is a journalist and author living in Peachtree City, Georgia. His career has encompassed work with New York Shakespeare Festival founder Joseph Papp and Tony Award-winning director George C. Wolfe, as well as five years on-air at XM Satellite Radio's XM 28 On Broadway channel. His writing has appeared in The Village Voice, Time Out/NY, Backstage, and The Sondheim Review, and online at the site he founded, AmericanTheaterWeb.com, as well as TheaterMania.com. In addition, he is curator and chief content officer for BwayTunes.com and is at work on a biography of pop songwriter and Broadway tunesmith Bob Merrill.
He is a graduate of the University of Chicago and trained at the British-American Drama Academy. He is an alum of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Critics Institute and has served as a mentor for student fellows in the program since 2007.
A longer review will follow, but if you love musical theater you need to read this book. A fascinating look at a multi-talented man whose composing impacted music and the theater world greatly. I was also intrigued by the exploration of how a musical makes it to Broadway and how that process changed over time. Really well-written and full of great details too!
Review for Library Journal: At age four, prodigy Cy Coleman (born Seymour Kaufman) could hear a song and play it on the piano. After making a name for himself performing in nightclubs and on TV, he composed songs for the likes of Frank Sinatra. In 1960 he added musicals to his repertoire with Wildcat (Lucille Ball's Broadway debut), ultimately writing the scores for 11 Broadway musicals including Sweet Charity (1966) and Barnum (1980). He also worked on movie scores and collaborated with Neil Simon, Tommy Tune, Bob Fosse, Shirley MacLaine, and Sid Caesar (to name a few). Through interviews, papers, and quotes, journalist and critic Propst crafts an engrossing first biography of Coleman (1929–2004) that reveals the development of a dedicated, well-respected composer and performer who won multiple Tonys, Emmys, and two Grammys as well. This is a fascinating look at an influential man whose showbiz career spanned more than 50 years. It is particularly interesting to follow his many musicals from development to (he hoped) Broadway and how that process shifted over time. VERDICT The number of productions Coleman worked on concurrently is a marvel. Highly recommended for theater buffs, fans of music history or those looking for an intriguing study of a memorable man. Coleman's legacy endures—the first Broadway revival of On the Twentieth Century opened to great acclaim in March 2015.
I first became aware of Cy Coleman and his music when, as a teenaged devotee of Lucille Ball, I became fascinated by her Broadway musical debut in the show Wildcat. That score was written by Coleman with lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, and as soon as the cast album was released, I had in it my collection and on constant play rotation. I bought it for Lucy, and I kept listening because I loved those songs so much. Over the next years, I was aware that Coleman was writing other Broadway shows, some I saw and some I read about. But it was not until Andy Propst’s You Fascinate Me So—The Life and Time of Cy Coleman did I appreciate the genius of this musician. Coleman began his training as a classical pianist, turned to playing in NYC jazz clubs, migrated to writing songs (“Witchcraft,” the hit by Frank Sinatra, was one of his earliest songs that went big,) and tackled his greatest love and challenge, the musical stage. Wildcat was his first show on Broadway, and then he went on to write ten more shows for the Broadway stage. Among them are memorable hits like Sweet Charity, Barnum, On the Twentieth Century, Will Rogers Follies, City of Angels, and The Life. In addition to these shows, Coleman wrote complete scores for over a dozen more that never made it to the Great White Way. And along the way, he continued to play jazz gigs, recorded several albums of jazz, and won several awards, among them the coveted Tony, for his scores. The man was absolutely remarkable. And, through exhaustive research, Probst brings Coleman to life for his readers. While I got a bit bogged down in Probst’s analyses of Coleman’s jazz playing, I was glued to his extensive tales of each of Coleman’s shows. Far too many biographies of musical theater writers spend a couple of pages on shows, even the iconic ones. But Probst spends entire chapters on each of the shows Coleman took to Broadway, and several pages are dedicated to the lesser known shows. This is a tribute to a remarkable man, and it is a tribute to a man who, as a general rule, is not well-enough known for his contributions to musical theater. Musical theater buffs will bandy about the names of Rodgers and Hammerstein, George Gershwin, Kander and Ebb, Sr. Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lerner and Lowe, and a few others, but I have rarely heard anyone who I discuss musical theater with express that they were familiar with Cy Coleman. Once I mention the titles of his shows, faces perk up with recognition. With this book, hopefully, Andy Probst has provided a valuable addition to the recorded history of American musical theater.
The title, YOU FASCINATE ME SO The Life and Times of Cy Coleman, is accurate, but the emphasis is on the times and Broadway during that period. There is very little information about the man, what made and drove him., what he felt, what influenced him, and what he did outside the theater. YOU FASCINATE ME SO is the first biography of Tony, Emmy, and Grammy winner Cy Coleman. Coleman’s love of the piano began when he was four years old and, as he grew up, he understood and utilized the many ways music could be expressed. Andy Propst did a lot of research and interviewed many people to gather the material for the book. For readers who are seriously interested in what is involved in getting a play on Broadway and what Coleman worked with, this book provides a lot of information regarding names and process.. Much of the information seems to have been gathered by reading reviews of his plays. Too much of the information is in the form of name dropping: e.g., Betsy von Furstenberg, who appeared in one of Coleman’s first plays, “was often seen on the arm of Conrad Hilton Jr.–the heir to the hotel fortune, Paris Hilton’s great-uncle....” Several of his more successful plays such as “Wildcat,” “Sweet Charity,” “City of Angels,” each have a chapter devoted to it, telling the story of the play from its conception to the stage. The process sometimes took years and many, many revisions. When each person associated with the play is mentioned–actor, director, producer, scenery and costume designers, their previous works and awards are listed. Summary: For theatrical mavens, lots of information about bringing a successful show or a song to fruition. For everyone else, not enough information about Cy Coleman. Too much information about everyone else.
I love most Cy Coleman shows. The book doesn't give much insight into the man except that everyone liked him, his trunk was filled with songs, and he could compose on the spot. Chapters almost formulaic: reads like an extended research paper rather than a biography.
This one did not fascinate. Although some of it is very interesting (the details of putting on a Broadway show for example) much is also recitation of events. It did not get into his head or the feeling behind his songs.