"Call Me Adam" chats with Tony Award winner Randy Graff and Director Will Nunziata about 54 Below's Our Guy, Cy: The Songs of Cy Coleman, which will be presented May 15, 16, and 20 at 7pm! The evening will also star Tony Award winners Lillias White and Cady Huffman and will feature fresh solo, duet, and trio arrangements of some of Cy’s most beloved songs will include selections from his pop standards canon and film scores, as well as his musicals Wildcat, Little Me, Sweet Charity, Seesaw, I Love My Wife, On the Twentieth Century, Barnum, City of Angels, The Will Rogers Follies, and The Life. Click here for tickets!
1. This May you are all starring in Our Guy, Cy: The Songs of Cy Coleman at 54 Below, which was conceived and directed by Will Nunziata. Will, what made you want to create an evening of Cy Coleman? Randy, what made you all want to be part of this concert?
Will Nunziata: When I was asked to put together a concert event celebrating the songs of Cy Coleman, I looked back on my past year and the directing projects I took on, and three women immediately came to mind - Tony Winners Lillias White, Randy Graff, and Cady Huffman. These women are not only immense talents, consummate singing-actresses, and friends - they also happen to have had the opportunity to spend a lot of one-on-one time with Cy as he built three roles on Broadway for them.
Randy Graff: CY, LILLIAS, CADY and WILL!
Will Nunziata: The space is a theatre space. That's how I treat it. The set, the lights, the sound, the room have all been created and are run by Tony Award winning Theatre talents, and I feel so lucky that I've had many opportunities to create events in this very special place.
Randy Graff: I like the beauty and intimacy and history of that room. And I love the wait staff. They are a group of cheerleaders for every performer.
3. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing this concert?
Will Nunziata: I hope audiences come away realizing the immense talent that was Cy Coleman. He could not be pegged into one category. He moved effortlessly from the pop world, to the jazz world, to the musical theatre world. I am thrilled with the arrangements created by a team of arrangers, including the show's fantastic musical director Eugene Gwozdz. To have Cy's talent brought to life in a fresh way by three women who love him and three women he loved is going to be a very special moment for music & theatre lovers alike. I also want audiences to feel like they've seen "a happening." You have the music of Cy Coleman, these three amazing talents, a killer swinging 4 piece band (Eugene Gwozdz - musical director & piano, Jeremy Yaddaw - drums, Adam Neely - bass, Chris Reza - reeds). Also, the three ladies will be dressed in custom-fitted Carmen Marc Valvo dresses that I was able to collaborate with him and his associate, Matt Carmouche, on.
Randy Graff: I hope they come away with a love and appreciation for Cy's music and versatility, and have a little understanding of Cy himself through our personal stories. Mostly, I just want everyone to have a great time!
Will Nunziata: His music was part of the soundtrack of my childhood. While my friends were listening to Madonna and New Kids on the Block, I was listening to the Great American Songbook and classic Broadway songs - many of which were his songs and shows. "The Best Is Yet to Come," "Witchcraft," the soundtracks of "Sweet Charity," "On the Twentieth Century," "Barnum," "City of Angels," "The Life," "The Will Rogers Follies," "Seesaw," etc. The list goes on and on! The fact that this was a Renaissance man who was unapologetically cool, hip, and ahead of his time is something to be admired, and these three ladies singing fresh arrangements of solos, duets, and trios of his music are really going to blow people away. Each song in this theatrical concert is its own entity and 3-act play. These ladies know how to "dig" into material and my job is to simply make sure they shine.
Randy Graff: The first Cy Coleman musical I ever saw was SEESAW. It was a seminal moment for me, because it was the first time I could even picture myself on a Broadway stage. I love where Cy's music sits in a woman's voice. It's in the chest..old school...none of this screaming and high belting till the dogs come home. He taught me how to sing "You Can Aways Count On Me.'' I still sing his phrasing. Old school, Sinatra, Capitol Records time...that lives in me and Cy was the one to bring it out. Cy is such a great singer himself and coooooool!
5. If you had to give people one reason to attend Our Guy, Cy: The Songs of Cy Coleman at 54 Below, what would that reason be?
Will Nunziata: Once-in-a-lifetime-event. I put hyphens to make it one word!
Randy Graff: Great music sung by three very different divas you've all seen on Broadway, up close and personal, backed by a slammin' band!
Will Nunziata: That the Arts remain alive and fresh and that kids' enthusiasm for the Arts is never stifled. The proudest thing I do with my brother, Anthony, besides singing around the country with him, was the formation of "The Will & Anthony Arts in Education Initiative." To travel around the country and giving master classes and talks and affirming music & theatre students' love of the arts and reminding them that their ideas, hopes, and dreams are valid is extremely important to me.
Randy Graff: As I turn 60! That is a great question....I'm not sure and I love the mystery of that.
7. Will is a visionary director with every concert he directs. He really caters to the performers strengths. Randy, what do you all love about working with Will? Will, what do you love about working with these talented Tony Award winning women?
Will Nunziata: These ladies are the best in the business. They are professional, respectful, hard working, collaborative, and kind. They each bring their own set of specific skills and talents to the table. Each of them as individuals are fireworks. Together, they are bigger and brighter than any Macy's 4th of July Spectacular I could ever imagine.
Randy Graff: I love Will! His passion and excitement about the work and his kindness towards the people he works with. His collaborative spirit and his ability to zero in on each performer's needs, and his overall respect for the process. He gets the big picture, and how to get there in a joyful and patient way. And the man is prepared!!
8. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose?
Will Nunziata: The ability to bring this show to Carnegie Hall and to symphony halls around the country. I see it living in that world. And these ladies and Cy's music belong on stages of that magnitude.
Randy Graff: Flying would be handy and fun.
Will Nunziata: Ask me after the run of the show!
Randy Graff: I actually had a signature drink back in the Les Miz days for a press event. Since I have a sweet tooth, it was called THE RANDY CANDY. Peach schnapps (the ladies would have some after the barricade scene the last show of the week) and triple sec and maybe orange juice or gin...hahaha....I can't remember but it was SWEET!