In classical writing, such as Homer’s poem The Odyssey, voices of The Sirens overcame sailors, causing them to shipwreck on islands in pursuit of the beautiful sound. Cyrens – The Swingin’ Songbook of Cy Coleman is another compelling musical journey – this one through a selection of Coleman’s Jazz and Broadway tunes.
Our ‘Cyrens’ are Chelsea Gibb (Chicago), Amanda Harrison (Wicked), and Melissa Langton (The Fabulous Singlettes), fronting a four-piece band. The show comes to us fresh from a season at Adelaide Cabaret Festival. It was quickly obvious that this show was deserving of that particular seal of approval. From the opening three-part harmonies of Big Spender, the audience found ourselves lured by the voices and drawn in by Musical Director Mark Jones’ arrangements.
Through solo or trio performances we took a tour of the performers’ favourite songs penned or interpreted by Coleman. These included tunes from his hit-filled 37-year stretch on Broadway, including Sweet Charity and the Tony Award-winning City of Angels.
Whilst I found much of this quite unfamiliar, highlights were plentiful. The set showcased the breadth of our performers’ abilities. Harrison’s take on jazz standard It Amazes Me showed just how powerful simplicity can be. Gibb demonstrated remarkable flexibility around a chair worthy of her experience in Cabaret through comedic The Oldest Profession; the tale of a working girl feeling that she’s getting too old. And together, underpinned by Langton’s lower register, the trio can go from the reverence of It’s Witchcraft to belting out an up-tempo tune, such as The Rhythm of Life.
The selections gave a diverse picture of Coleman’s work, interest maintained by varied arrangements that included saxophone, flute or clarinet by Tim Wilson. The control of volume and mood by bass (Tamara Murphy) and percussion (Sonja Horbelt) ably demonstrated their talents.
Through careful planning and skill, all of the show’s components harmonised to captivate the audience. Enthusiastic applause showed that none of us minded being diverted to the island of Cy Coleman’s jazz-influenced music. The tragedy of mythological proportions here is that so few punters will be able to take the voyage in such a short season. If ever a tale deserved another telling in the near future, it is Cyrens.
Cyrens: The Swingin’ Songbook of Cy Coleman
Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran
Performance: Friday 30 June 2017 – 8.30pm
Image: Melissa Langton, Amanda Harrison and Chelsea Gibb star in Cyrens: The Swingin’ Songbook of Cy Coleman
Review: Jason Whyte