Andy Propst Interview with TheaterMania!
You Fascinate Me So author Andy Propst recently sat down with Zachary Stewart of TheaterMania for an interview during which they talk about his new book and his book’s subject, Cy Coleman!
Broadway composer Cy Coleman had a remarkably varied career. Before age 10 he was already a concert pianist. He eventually moved into the nightclub world and then onto Broadway where he penned musicals like Little Me and Sweet Charity, the show about a dancer-for-hire that features the unforgettable number “Big Spender.” His operetta tribute, On the Twentieth Century, is presently receiving its first Broadway revival at the American Airlines Theatre. Throughout his life, Coleman never stopped experimenting with musical and theatrical form.
Author Andy Propst charts it all in his expansive new biography of Coleman, You Fascinate Me So. Propst (who was a staff writer and critic for TheaterMania from 2009-2013) spoke to us about Coleman’s work, his fraught relationship with Carolyn Leigh, and his eclectic style.
TheaterMania: You write in the book that you saw your first musical, Sweet Charity, at the age of nine. Whose idea was it to take a nine-year-old to that?
Andy Propst: A woman by the name of Susan Miller. She was a teacher of acting at University of Illinois who had gone to college with my mother in Pennsylvania. She became my Auntie Mame. Susan was always introducing me to theater that might have been a little progressive for a preteen, but it did inspire a love of theater in me that exists to this day.
By the time Coleman was nine he had already played Carnegie Hall. How did he get such an early start?
His mother, Ida, was a landlord. She owned a couple of buildings in the Bronx. At the height of the Depression, one of the tenants left and took all their belongings except one thing they couldn’t get out of the apartment: an upright piano. Ida brought it into the house and Cy (who was known as Seymour Kaufman at that point) started playing by ear. He began taking lessons at the age of four and just before he was seven his teacher had gotten him to the point where he was winning citywide competitions and playing at The Town Hall.
Later he worked as a jazz pianist in clubs all over the city. How did that influence his work as a composer?
Musically he was a sponge. All of the music he heard and played was fused into him. He had a love of Rossini, which led him to the grandiose style we hear in On the Twentieth Century. When he was starting out in clubs he was doing covers of Rodgers and Hammerstein and Cole Porter. All of that became a part of his musical DNA.
Click here to read the rest of the interview!
Posted on April 16, 2015, in Theatre and tagged Andy Propst, Applause Books, Cy Coleman, The Life and Times of Cy Coleman, TheaterMania, You Fascinate Me So, Zachary Stewart. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.