JOHNNY MERCER FOUNDATION
Stars Shine for Cy Coleman
At The Rainbow Room
Story by Edward T. Callaghan
Photos by Barry Gordin
HE Second Annual Johnny Mercer Award Gala at the spectacular Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center honored Broadway composer Cy Coleman who died three days later on November 18 at age 75.
Foundation president Margaret Whiting and her husband, director/actor Jack Wrangler, organized a supreme salute to the man who for five decades gave us such smash hits as Sweet Charity, Little Me, City of Angels and The Will Rogers Follies.
The glittering crowd swirled around the room almost in time to the soft, melodic playing of jazz legend Bucky Pizzarelli. Among those toasting Cy and his lovely wife Shelby Coleman were Hal David, Tony Danza, Marty and Edith Segal, David Zippel, Charles Strouse, Jimmy Webb, Sheldon Harnick, Liz Callaway, Karen Mason, Phyllis Newman and Andrea Marcovicci.
Singer/songwriter Kathie Lee Gifford, currently starring in her original musical Under the Bridge, rang the dinner bell. The inimitable Whiting immediately set the tone for deep appreciation to Coleman with a lovely rendition of Here's to Us.
Gifford sang with her co-star Ed Dixon. Tony award winners Brian Stokes Mitchell treated the audience to a real classic, Witchcraft, following Cy Coleman's original arrangement when the composer first performed it himself.
Glenn Close, who had flown in especially for Cy's tribute, reprised her Tony award winning turn in Coleman's Broadway spectacle, Barnum.
Gifford introduced another aspect of the Mercer Foundation's activities when she brought on stage Adam Guettel who performed a tune from his Broadway bound original musical, Light in the Piazza. The show, at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theater, received financial support from the Johnny Mercer Foundation through its unique collaboration with the Sundance Theater Institute.
Donald Deal presented a spring fashion show proving why he is such a favorite couturier of glamorous gals that include Sharon Stone, Vanessa Williams, Bette Midler and Barbara Walters.
In an evening that unveiled one musical marvel after another, a special pleasure came in the form of Broadway composer Charles Strouse taking to the piano with a tune from his upcoming Broadway musical, Marty. The always vivacious and impassioned Chita Rivera added new dimension to Coleman's haunting plaint, Where Am I Going.
Tony Bennett not only paid musical tribute to Cy Coleman but also to Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer. Bennett then launched into a brilliant recitative of Coleman's extraordinary accomplishments that led critic Clive Barnes to call Coleman "a permanent gem in Broadway's crown."
Clearly on a busman's holiday, Coleman took to his favorite spot – at the piano – to offer dinner guests the sweetest dessert of all, the songwriter singing his songs.