Library Journal called Andy Propst’s new biography of Cy Coleman, You Fascinate Me So, “a fascinating look at an influential man whose showbiz career spanned more than 50 years…Highly recommended for theater buffs, fans of music history, or those looking for an intriguing study of a memorable man.” Listen to Andy talk about Coleman and his book with James Marino, Peter Filichia, and Michael Portantiere at broadwayradio.com!
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!
Barry Monush, author of The Sound of Music FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About Maria, the von Trapps, and Our Favorite Things talks with Patrick Phillips of “Pop Culture Tonight” about his new book!
The Sound of Music FAQ is a comprehensive, encyclopedia-like reference to the world’s most popular movie musical. Rather than focusing on the often-told stories of this classic movie, this book looks at the 1965 Oscar-winner in relation to its source, including the true von Trapp family story and the Broadway musical from which it was derived.
The Sound of Music FAQ explores such facts and trivia as the movie’s phenomenal original run in cinemas, during which it dominated the box office for a staggering amount of time and became the highest grossing movie of the 1960s and of all time; its long and varied life on home video and primetime television; the bestselling soundtrack and many other related recordings; information behind the stunning Austrian locations; the critical feedback; the many stage revivals; and the continuing references, homages, reunions, and tributes related to it over the many decades since its release.
Andy Propst, author of You Fascinate Me So: The Life and Times of Cy Coleman, chats with Joe Dziemianowicz of the Joe D Show about the upcoming book and the new musical On the Twentieth Century!
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.
Fortune in My Eyes: A Memoir of Broadway Glamour, Social Justice, and Political Passion by David Rothenberg is now available in paperback!
Fortune in My Eyes: A Memoir of Broadway Glamour, Social Justice, and Political Passion by David Rothenberg (Applause Books)
David Rothenberg’s multilayered life thrust him into Broadway’s brightest lights, prison riots, political campaigns, civil rights sit-ins, and a Central American civil war. In his memoir, Fortune in My Eyes, his journey includes many of the most celebrated names in the theater: Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, Sir John Gielgud, Charles Boyer, Peggy Lee, Eartha Kitt, Charles Laughton, Alvin Ailey, and numerous others. David produced an Off-Broadway prison drama, Fortune and Men’s Eyes, which reshaped his life. John Herbert’s chilling play led directly to the creation of the Fortune Society, which has evolved into one of the nation’s most formidable advocacy and service organizations in criminal justice. David was Elizabeth Taylor’s opening night date at the Richard Burton Hamlet – a distant cry from his entering Attica prison during that institution’s famed inmate uprising…just two of the experiences revealed in this memoir. As a theater publicist and producer – and as a social activist – he shares experiences with presidents (JFK and Bill Clinton) and with anonymous men and women, out of prison, who have fought to reclaim their lives. The human drama of the formerly incarcerated is a match for many of the entertainment world’s most fabled characters.
Boze Hadleigh, author of An Actor Succeeds talks with Patrick Phillips of “Pop Culture Tonight” about his new book!
An Actor Succeeds is a very special collection containing all the best trade secrets of the biggest and most successful film and theater professionals. Presented in an informative format, An Actor Succeeds is a useful yet entertaining how-to, tips-and-advice book comprising nearly 900 quotes mostly from actors but also directors, writers, casting directors, and more. The book is conveniently divided into five chapters: Acting, Auditioning, Connecting, Working, and Coping. Here’s a sampling of quotes from each section:
“Of course we all learn that acting is basically reacting. The least acting you ever have to do is in a close-up. The close-up may require an actor’s reaction, but a small, subtle one. Generally speaking, the less you ‘act’ in a close-up, the better.” -Sir John Gielgud
“Acting, especially in motion pictures, is very hierarchical, like a caste system. The stars are royalty, the other actors are serfs-okay, commoners… If you’re not a big shot, you gotta be careful not to push or intrude. You gotta watch what you say, how you say it, and, especially, when you say it.” -Bruce Dern
“Acting in front of a camera or a live audience requires intense concentration, to shut out the real world and create the character’s reality. Focus is just as important for an actor as for a cinematographer.” -Keira Knightley
“Partly I got into show business to become rich and famous and thus show up anyone who’d treated me badly growing up. But doesn’t one evolve with maturity? My focus ultimately changed from negative to positive, as I found that I enjoyed the work, even the struggle, for its own sake.” -Michael Landon
Applause Theatre & Cinema Books has recently published How I Did It: Establishing a Playwriting Career, edited by Lawrence Harbison. The book features many interviews with successful playwrights, all conducted by Harbison.
Check out the Foreword of this new Applause book, written by Theresa Rebeck!
How do playwrights get their start? Where does the idea of being a playwright even come from, and then how does one start?
Once someone starts writing, how does that person figure out how to get a raw new play from a complete nobody to a place where someone produces it? And then what happens? And then what?
In a series of interviews that are chock full of the kind of information that other playwrights want to hear, Larry Harbison poses these questions to some of America’s finest contemporary playwrights. In conversations that range from a discussion of what kind of temp work you were doing when you started out as a playwright to how you got your first agent, and from who gave you a hand up to the thrill or heartbreak of that first production, Harbison focuses on the mysterious moment when a playwright steps out of that chrysalis and starts to emerge.
The designation emerging playwright is so commonplace that no one is quite sure what it means. Intuitively, one might think it means a playwright who nobody’s ever heard of. Or, a playwright whose plays are pretty good, but who has never had a production.
Or, a playwright who’s had a couple of productions in smaller venues but is hoping to get into a bigger house. Or, a playwright who has had a couple of productions but has made no money at all at it and still harbors the fantasy that someday someone might actually pay him or her to do this.
Or, a playwright who is teaching playwriting at a university but struggles to get his or her own work into production.
Recently, I was told that emerging playwright doesn’t mean any of that. Apparently, some people think an emerging playwright is actually a playwright who has already emerged enough to get the attention of people who might agree that this emerged playwright could use some help emerging further. Which means, I guess, that we need another word for what happens before that. Aspiring? Depressed? Hopeful? Wannabe?
People seem very concerned about these designations. Right now, the ones in vogue are emerging playwright, midcareer playwright, and master playwright. Although I have a friend who had a couple of strong pops straight out of graduate school, and since then, not much. She calls herself a “submerged playwright.” Frankly she’s not the only one who worries about submerging; anything past “emerging” and before “master” is a little worrisome. Will you make it through “mid career” or will you fall away into teaching or raising children or (oh no!) television?
That is not our concern today. Today we are looking at the moment when some of our most compelling playwrights emerged. Their stories are simply told, with appropriate attention to detail, which Harbison nurses out of them with a shrewd eye. They are in fact the stories that every young playwright wants to know. How does that moment happen?
It’s hard to emerge. As I read these interviews, they reminded me of a little bird, pecking like hell to get out of its egg and get on with things. We are right to be obsessed with the question of emergence. I’m also struck by the way the word “emergence” glides so effortlessly into the word “emergency.” There is no question that climbing out of that shell is essential to life; you will suffocate in there if you don’t make it out.
But there are ways to get out of that shell. Harbison and his pantheon of playwrights have information about that.
September 20, 2014