Cy Coleman
Coleman in 1996
Coleman in 1996
Background information
Birth nameSeymour Kaufman
Born(1929-06-14)June 14, 1929
New York City, U.S.
DiedNovember 18, 2004(2004-11-18) (aged 75)
New York City, U.S.
Occupation(s)Composer, songwriter, pianist

Cy Coleman (born Seymour Kaufman; June 14, 1929 – November 18, 2004) was an American composer, songwriter, and jazz pianist.[1]

Life and career

Coleman was born Seymour Kaufman in New York City, to Eastern European Jewish parents, and was raised in the Bronx.[1] His mother, Ida (née Prizent) was an apartment landlady and his father was a brickmason.[2] He was a child prodigy who gave piano recitals at venues such as Steinway Hall, Town Hall, and Carnegie Hall between the ages of six and nine.[3] 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, Coleman decided to build a career in popular music.[1] His first collaborator was Joseph Allen McCarthy, but his most successful early partnership, albeit a turbulent one,[4] was with Carolyn Leigh. The pair wrote many pop hits, including "Witchcraft" and "The Best Is Yet to Come".[1] One of his instrumentals, "Playboy's Theme," became the signature music of the regular syndicated late night TV show Playboy After Dark in the 1960s. This included specials presented by the editor/publisher Hugh M. Hefner of Playboy magazine, and remains synonymous with the Chicago magazine and its creator, Hefner.

Coleman's career as a Broadway composer began when he and Leigh collaborated on Wildcat (1960),[1] which marked the Broadway debut of movie/television comedienne Lucille Ball. The score included the hit tune "Hey, Look Me Over".[1] When Ball became ill, she left the show, and it closed. Next for the two was Little Me, with a book by Neil Simon based on the novel of the same name by Patrick Dennis. The show introduced "Real Live Girl" and "I've Got Your Number," which became popular standards.[1]

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."[5] Fields was revitalized by working with the much younger Coleman, and by the contemporary nature of their first project, which was Sweet Charity, again with a book by Simon, starring Gwen Verdon, and introducing the songs "If My Friends Could See Me Now", "I'm a Brass Band" and "Big Spender".[1] 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.[1] 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.[1] Also in 1970, he produced the single "Lying Here" (Mercury 73150)[6] for the Rock opera Sensations, and took a full-page (back cover) advert in Billboard magazine to promote his upcoming star vocalist Steve Leeds.

Cy Coleman with playwright Neil Simon (right) during a rehearsal in 1982

In 1980, Coleman served as producer and composer for the circus-themed Barnum, which co-starred Jim Dale and Glenn Close.[1] Later in the decade, he collaborated on Welcome to the Club (1988) with A. E. Hotchner, and City of Angels (1989) with David Zippel.[1] In the latter, inspired by the hard-boiled detective film noir of the 1930s and 1940s, 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, Power, and Family Business.[7] In addition, he wrote memorable television specials for Shirley MacLaine, If My Friends Could See Me Now and Gypsy in My Soul.[8] Coleman has been the only composer to win consecutive Tony awards for Best Score at the same time that the corresponding musicals won for Best Musical: City of Angels and The Will Rogers Follies (although Stephen Sondheim actually won three consecutive Tony Awards for Best Score for Company, Follies, and A Little Night Music, Follies did not win for Best Musical). Coleman was on the ASCAP Board of Directors for many years and also served as their Vice Chairman Writer.[9]

One final musical with a Coleman score played in Los Angeles at the Mark Taper Forum between December 2003 and January 2004, under the title Like Jazz, as a Broadway tryout. Investor Transamerica Capital went forward with plans to mount a Broadway production renamed In the Pocket.[10] Dirk Decloedt and Maurice Hines were announced as director and choreographer with an anticipated opening in Spring 2006 but it never opened.[11]


Coleman studied at New York's The High School of Music & Art and the New York College of Music, graduating in 1948.[12]


Coleman died of cardiac arrest at 11:59 pm on November 18, 2004, at New York Hospital, aged 75.[13] He was survived by his wife, Shelby Coleman (née Brown) and their adopted daughter,[14] Lily Cye Coleman (born in 2000). To the very end, he was part of the Broadway scene – he had attended the premiere of Michael Frayn's new play Democracy earlier on November 18.[3]

Theatre credits

Year Title Role Music Lyrics Book Ref.
1960 Wildcat Music Cy Coleman Carolyn Leigh N. Richard Nash
1962 Little Me Neil Simon
1966 Sweet Charity Dorothy Fields
1973 Seesaw Michael Bennett
1977 I Love My Wife Michael Stewart
1978 On the Twentieth Century Betty Comden & Adolph Green
1979 Home Again, Home Again Barbara Fried Russell Baker [15]
1980 Barnum Music & producer Michael Stewart Mark Bramble [1]
1989 Welcome to the Club Music & lyrics Cy Coleman & A. E. Hotchner A. E. Hotchner
City of Angels Music David Zippel Larry Gelbart
1990 The Life Ira Gasman David Newman, Ira Gasman & Cy Coleman
1991 The Will Rogers Follies Betty Comden & Adolph Green Peter Stone
2003 Like Jazz/In the Pocket Alan and Marilyn Bergman Larry Gelbart [11]

Awards, nominations and honors

Awards and nominations

He also won three Emmy Awards[16] and two Grammy Awards, and an Academy Award nomination.


Among his many honors and awards, Coleman was elected to the Songwriter's Hall of Fame (1981), and was the recipient of the Songwriter's Hall of Fame Johnny Mercer Award (1995)[17] and the ASCAP Foundation Richard Rodgers Award for lifetime achievement in American musical theatre.[8] He was elected to the American Theatre Hall of Fame[18][19] and received an Honorary Doctorate from Hofstra University in 2000.[20]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Colin Larkin, ed. (2002). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Fifties Music (Third ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 81/3. ISBN 1-85227-937-0.
  2. ^ Berkvist, Robert."Cy Coleman, Composer Whose Jazz-Fired Musicals Blazed on Broadway, Dies at 75", The New York Times, November 20, 2004.
  3. ^ a b Jones, Kenneth."Cy Coleman, a Master of the Show Tune, Is Dead at 75" Archived December 27, 2008, at the Wayback Machine,, November 19, 2004.
  4. ^ Propst, Andy, You Fascinate Me So: The Life and Times of Cy Coleman. Milwaukee WI: 2015.
  5. ^ Furia, Philip and Lasser, Michael, America's Songs:The Stories Behind the Songs of Broadway, Hollywood, and Tin Pan Alley (2006), CRC Press, ISBN 0-415-97246-9, p. 287.
  6. ^ Coleman, Cy (October 31, 1970), "Steve Leeds sings "Lying Here"", Billboard, pp. Back page
  7. ^ PBS biography,, accessed March 30, 2009.
  8. ^ a b Biography,, accessed March 30, 2009.
  9. ^ ASCAP listing,, accessed March 30, 2009
  10. ^ "The People In The Pyramid Give Their Regards To Broadway". Archived from the original on November 30, 2012. Retrieved October 22, 2019.
  11. ^ a b "Dirk Decloedt and Maurice Hines Ready In the Pocket for B'way". Retrieved October 22, 2019.
  12. ^ "Cy Coleman," Encyclopedia of Music in the 20th Century, by Lol Henderson & Lee Stacey (eds.), Fitzroy Dearborn (1999), p. 131; OCLC 40798416.
  13. ^ Berkvist, Robert (19 November 2004). "Cy Coleman, Broadway Composer, Dies at 75". The New York Times. Retrieved July 4, 2014.
  14. ^ "Shelby Brown and Cye Coleman". The New York Times. Retrieved April 6, 2005.
  15. ^ Lawson, Carol (April 14, 1979). "'Home Again, Home Again' Closing Out of Town". The New York Times. New York City.
  16. ^ "Cy Coleman : Awards". Retrieved October 22, 2019.
  17. ^ Song Writers Hall of Fame Mercer Award, 1995 Archived 2009-07-01 at the Wayback Machine,, accessed March 30, 2009.
  18. ^ List of members, American Theater Hall of Fame,, accessed March 30, 2009.
  19. ^ "Theater Hall of Fame members". Retrieved February 10, 2014.
  20. ^ Hofstra University: Speakers for Commencement 2000,, May 10, 2000.